8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Cost of Soldiers’ Homes
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation whether he is aware that since the maximum sum of £700 was allowed for the construction- of a soldier’s home, the amount of wages to he paid to the operatives, the cost of land, and the COSt, of materials required in the erection of soldiers’ homes have very considerably increased, and that, in consequence there is some difficulty in securing tenders for the erection of these homes? Is the Minister prepared, in view of these circumstances, to increase the maximum amount allowed for a soldier’s home to £850 1
– I am aware of very sharp rises, both in the cost of materials and the remuneration received by labour in connexion with the building trade, as with all other trades. I am not aware that the reason assigned by the honorable senator is the reason why tenders are not submitted. I sHall, later on this afternoon, be dealing with the matter covered by the rest of the honorable senator’s question, and 1 shall then deal with it very fully.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he has any information to give honorable senators in connexion with the seizure of gold from Indians in the course of their journey from Fiji to India 1
– I have no detailed information other than that which has appeared in the press. I understand that, in contravention of our regulations, certain Indians about to leave Australia were found to be carrying with them an excess quantity of gold ; and the Government, in the discharge of their duty of enforcing the laws and regulations of the country, have seized the gold.
The following paper was presented: - Paper. - Inter-State Commission Act. - Sixth Annual Report of the Inter-State Commission.
Administration: Report of Royal Commission
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
SenatorRUSSELL. - The answers are -
A telegram dated16th March, 1920, was received by the Minister for Home and Territories, as follows: - “Public meeting Port Moresby yesterday, Bruce, chairman, passed resolution hostile to me by small majority, voting being seventy-five to fifty-nine. The majority was more than accounted for by the employees of British New Guinea Development Company. Object of meeting to protest against my remarks under heading Asiatic labour in report answering Japanese Binzo Gond printed as a parliamentary paper last year and entitled ‘Three Power Rule in New Guinea.’ Statement particularly objected to was to the effect that European became less efficient - that is, could not do so much work in the tropics. The only artisans to whom I had opportunity of explaining report voted against the resolution. Many of those voted for the resolution appeared to be under the entirely mistaken impression that I am in favour ot the introduction of Chinese and Japanese labour.’ There were very few copies report available, and hardly any one had read. it. The British New Guinea Development Company has always been opposed to the Government, and arranged the hostile meeting in 1915 of which report in your Department, and they are particularly hostile now on account of the action which is now being tried in which the Papuan Government claims £12,000 from them for loss Merrie England. They are a large trading and planting company, and have considerable commercial and , personal influence. Votes at meeting numbered one hundred and thirty-four,’ population of Territory about one thousand, but even had majority been much greater feel unnecessary point out to you that policy efficient protection natives almost necessarily unpopular with certain white residents. As Bruce is telegraphing resolution to Prime Minister, have thought it right to advise you on above and ask you to inform Prime Minister. - Mubbay.”
A further telegram from the LieutenantGovernor, dated 23rd March, 1920, has been received : - “ London Missionary Society ask me forward you the following three resolutions adopted at their conference to-day, I believe in consequence of public meeting held Port Moresby last Monday. Suggest resolutions might be shown to Prime Minister and incorporated in reply to question to be asked in Senate. Resolutions begin - (1) That this meeting of the Papuan District Committee of the London Missionary Society has much pleasure in placing on record its high appreciation of the policy of His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor and the Government in protecting, reserving and promoting the interests of the natives of this Territory, and gratefully acknowledge the assistance at all times given to this and other missions working in Papua. (2) That the District Committee expressed its appreciation of the beginning made by the Government to assist the education of the Papuans from funds provided by native taxation, and adds the hope that this may be regarded as only a beginning of help in this important and necessary work. (3) That the Papuan District Committee desires to thank His Excellency the LieutenantGovernor for his efforts to strengthen the position and character of the Papuan by the Ordinance compelling the natives to make communal plantations, and trust that the establishment of native - owned plantations will be carried energetically forward, as we are convinced that this policy of the Government is one of its greatest contributions to the well-being of the natives and to the future prosperity of the Territory. - Mubbay.”
Post Adelaide Post Office
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster - General, upon notice -
Will he lay on the table of the. Senate all correspondence relating to the erection of a modern post office at Port Adelaide?
– The answer is-
The Postmaster-General will be very pleased to make the file available at his office for the perusal of the honorable senator. Action is pending on it, and it cannot therefore be parted with.
Motion (by Senator Russell) agreed to-
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Immigration Act 190,1- 1912.
Bill presented, and (on motion by Senator Russell) read a first time.
Suspension of Standing Order.
– I move -
That standing order No. 14 be suspended so far as to permit the second reading of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill to be moved before the Address-in-Reply is adopted.
Honorable senators will understand that under the standing order referred to, it is not open to us to proceed with other business until the Address-in-Reply has been finalized. I am very anxious, with the concurrence of honorable senators, to move the second reading of the Repatriation Bill at this juncture, so that they may have it before them at the earliest possible moment. I assume that at the conclusion of my introductory speech, the usual adjournment of the debate will be moved for
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- In moving -
That this Bill be now read a second time, it is, I think, not inopportune that I should give honorable senators a summary of the work accomplished to date by the Repatriation Department, as by that means it will be possible to see a little more clearly the problem in its present position, and understand what remains to be done. With this object in viewy I propose to quote some figures which I think will be found most encouraging, but before doing so, may I repeat what I said when this problem first came before us in a practical form, namely, that it is not the policy of the Department - and certainly so far as I am concerned it has not been my effort to give effect to such policy - to regard repatriation as an instrumentality and agency for the distribution of gifts, rewards, or bonuses. I took the view then that if Parliament wanted to give something to our soldiers in the way of a bonus, it should do so by its own action. That is now being done in the shape of a war gratuity. When introducing the first Repatriation Bill, I remarked that the especial duty of the Repatriation Department would be to reestablish soldiers in civil life, and uptodate everything has been done towards that end. I am pleased now to be able to show full justification for the statement I now make, that the back of the repatriation problem has been practically broken. I know that, judging by public utterances and press statements, this is not the general view, but I think that the figures to which I shall refer will more than justify my optimistic declaration. It was inevitable when the problem first came before us that there should be some commencing period, the difficulties, dating from the return of the first lot of soldiers, gradually rising until the peak was reached, and then falling away again until they gradually disappeared. I do not want it to be thought that I am not conscious of the fact that there is much yet to be done. This problem will be with us for a great many years in the shape of an obligation to care for the wounded, the widows, and orphans of our soldiers. But I think I am safe in saying that the Department has not unsuccessfully grappled with it.
I propose now to quote some figures to show how far we have travelled, and how far we shall have to go to the completion of our work. The total enlistments reached 416,809, and of that number 327,239 embarked for service abroad. Of this latter number 59,130 made the supreme sacrifice - enlisted in that glorious army of our immortal dead - and in addition 5,438 applied for and received discharges abroad, so that the total of those who embarked has to be reduced by 64,568, leaving 262,671 men on the army strength, and towards -whom we were under definite obligation. Of this number no less than 260,903 have now been returned to Australia, leaving abroad to the middle of last month only 1,768. I may say here that the rapidity with which the work of demobilization has been accomplished is a cause for much gratification, especially if we remember that at the signing of the armistice, and prior to that time, estimates given for th6 repatriation of our soldiers ranged from eighteen months to three years, owing to the scarcity of shipping and other difficulties. That our men have been brought back with this marvellous rapidity is, I think, something for which the Government are entitled to commendation, and may I say that much credit is due to Senator Pearce, whose presence in England was most helpful. Sir John Monash himself in his report upon the work, has stated that what appeared to be dead-locks in the task of repatriation were, owing to Senator Pearce’s presence in England, rapidly and satisfactorily smoothed away. Of the 260,000 soldiers on the army strength - I desire now to dispense with odd numbers - 248,549 have been discharged, leaving on the defence’ roll 12,354. If we add to this number the 1,768 men still abroad, we have a total of 14,122 men, soldiers of the original army, still on the army strength. That is to say, of the 416,809 citizens of Australia who enlisted for service abroad there is now only 3£ per cent, on the military pay roll. The men upon discharge ceased to become the responsibility of the Defence Department, but they immediately became the responsibility of the Repatriation Department, and I would like now to indicate briefly in what way this responsibility has been discharged. I may add that the 14,000 still to be discharged will represent a much lighter responsibility than soldiers discharged in the early days of the demobilization process, because in many cases the men who came back to Australia first were returned because of some invalidity or unsuitability, whereas the last 14,000 men, and, indeed, the last 100,000 men are mostly hale soldiers who had served through the war with credit to themselves, and, therefore, were not likely to represent the same percentage of difficulty, from a repatriation point of view. If honorable senators will bear these figures in mind, they will be able better to appreciate the position, and realize that I am justified in believing that the back of the repatriation problem has been broken; that we have long since passed the half-way house in the journey we have to travel.
Applications for assistance from the Repatriation Department have been lodged by 173,957 men. It is said that there are thousands of soldiers who never trouble the Repatriation Department. That is perfectly true, but I invite honorable senators to compare these figures :- 248,549 men discharged, and 173,957 applications from individuals for assistance from the Repatriation Department. The men are entitled to submit more than one application for the different forms of benefits, and it is interesting to note that they have submitted no less than 406,692 applications, irrespective of applications for houses »r land. I am not in a position to give the Senate t definite information as to the figures under these headings. Of the total applications received, 153,993 were for employment, 37,451 for vocational training, and 215,248 for general assistance. It will be seen from these figures that employment, judged by numbers alone, is by far the most important section of our work. Whatever we may wish to do for our soldiers, it is inevitable in the present state of society that the majority of the men must necessarily secure restoration to civil life by means of employment. We might have wished to make them all employers, or place them in some position other than that actually allotted; but the majority of these men can best be restored to civil life by placing them in suitable and congenial employ- ment. It is true that there is unemployment amongst our soldiers, but I desire to show, relatively, how small it is. I ask honorable senators to remember the rapidity with which demobilization was carried out, and to realize that 120,000 men were returned to Australia -within six months. It is not possible to assume that this number could, within a day or a week, be placed in civil’ occupation. It would have been a difficult task if we had had no industrial disputes or droughts with which to contend, and all* the men had been quite normal when they returned. Under normal conditions it would [have been a wonderful achievement to promptly secure the absorption of so large ‘a number, but it became an infinitely greater task when industries were seriously disturbed by strike after strike, and large .areas throughout the whole Commonwealth were devastated by one of the severest droughts we have ever experienced. We must also remember that, as a result of war experience, a number of the men were not normal in many ways. Yet, of .the 153,993 men applying for employment, 138,964. were found work; in other words, 90 per cent, of the men who came to us were placed directly in employment by our action, or indirectly assisted by a sustenance allowance until they found employment for themselves. The number of men loft on our books was 15,229, representing 6.8 per cent, of the men discharged, and I do not regard that as unemployment at all. If honorable senators will draw upon their experience I venture to say they cannot regard that as an excessive number, as the books of industrial unions ordinarily disclose normal unemployment in the neighbourhood of 5 or 6 per cent. There is also another factor to which I desire to draw attention. I do not hesitate to say that the sustenance allowance which a not ungrateful country provided for its fighting men during the interregnum between their discharge and the time they were placed in employment was in some cases an attraction to men to remain out of employment. Had it not been for this assistance these men would probably have been a little more persistent in looking for work and a little less particular in the work they were prepared to accept. Whilst that is so in the case of a small number of individuals, it no way detracts from the merits of the ‘sustenance payment itself.
We have discovered in the course of our experience that the Repatriation Department is a most delicate sounding board as to the general industrial conditions prevailing throughout Australia, as when anything happens to interfere with the regular employment of men, it is immediately registered by our barometer - the Repatriation employment register. In 1918, when we were dealing with a larger percentage of men, who because of their injuries or otherwise were less fitted to battle for themselves, the unemployment ranged from 2.8 to 4.2 percent. Early in the next year Australia was smitten with the influenza epidemic, which affected us in two ways. Many employers were either compelled to close their establishments or limit their operations, and this prevented the Department from placing men in employment, while others were thrown out of work. Under a rigid interpretation of our obligations we could have said that these men, having been placed in positions comparable with those they left when enlisting, we had discharged our duties, and that they were then called upon to share the exigencies to which their occupations rendered them liable. I did not take that view. Many of the men had so recently returned that they had not had time to v become re-acclimatized when they lost their occupations, and we therefore restored them to the unemployment and sustenance register which had the effect of raising our unemployment from the figure I quoted to 6.5 per cent. As the epidemic passed away, our figures commenced to fall, and they were steadily on the decline until we were confronted with the seamen’s strike. Honorable senators know exactly what effect that strike had upon our industries, as in Melbourne alone 30,000 men were rendered idle owing to the absence of motive power. Under the influence of that industrial upheaval, our figures increased to 7.5 per cent.; and when that strike terminated they immediately commenced to drop until they fell to 5.1 per cent., when, unfortunately, we were overtaken by the engineers’ strike, under the influence of which .the figures were again raised to 6.8 per cent. But the connexon between the various industrial disturbances to which I have referred,’ and the; figures on our books was so remarkable that it is possible to tell what was going on outside by the figures’ on our unemployment register at the Repatriation Department. The figures I (have submitted are not unsatisfactory. We had to deal with large numbers of men, many of whom had been unsettled as the result of war experience, and some of whom came back with exaggerated ideas as to what the country ought to do for them. There were others who were unsettled before the war, and who had not been made les3 so as the result of their experience abroad. When we remember the effect of the sustenance allowance, I do not think it can be held for one moment that even the present figures are high, particularly when we remember the number of strikes, and consider that only 6.8 per cent, of the total number of discharged men are unemployed. As to the sustenance allowance, I may say that all sorts of wild statements have been made as to the expenditure of millions in sustenance to the demoralization of thousands of men. I am glad to be able to tell honorable senators that the average amount paid in this connexion has ‘been £8 5s. The average period during which men have been drawing sustenance allowance has been three weeks. If we eliminate those which we can regard as difficult cases - men * who, some through their own fault, ‘and many through no fault of their own, are not easily placed - this period is quite re-assuring. In view of the extravagant statements that have been made on this point, I ask any fair-minded man if he can take exception to the policy which provides for the payment of sustenance for a period of three weeks during the interregnum between their discharge and the placing of the men in employment? These figures are the finest certificate .one could possibly produce as to the moral character of the boys. It has been said that the sustenance payment was a bribe, and enabled many to forsake the paths of industry and become idlers; but when it is remembered that such a comparatively small percentage of the men have taken advantage of the sustenance allowance, such statements are easily contradicted. May I add just one other line of figures which, I feel sure, will be of interest. All Departments are allegedly extravagant, to some extent; but I trust that no one will be able to say that the Department of Repatriation has been extravagant. The mean cost for the whole Commonwealth for this section of the work amounts to 7s. Id. per man, ranging from 10s. Id. in Queensland to 4s. lOd. in South Australia. These figures are not only informative, and I trust satisfactory to honorable senators, but they throw into pretty clear perspective the duty which awaits us.
We have 14,000 men undischarged and 15,000 still on our books, with very few more men to come back. As we are placing on an average 5,000 per month, it is quite clear that it will not be long before our unemployment problem commences to dwindle down, and we are left with the perhaps inescapable residuum. I am confident that, if we secure reasonable immunity from industrial disturbances, in the course of a very short time - a month or so - our figures will commence again steadily to drop, and as there are to be no further arrivals after a brief period, if we continue to place men at that rate we shall soon be left only with those men who are what I have called the difficult cases.
It has been suggested that we ought to have made some provision in the way of employment for men, rather than giving them sustenance to remain idle. That’ is a very commendable aspiration, but there are some difficulties in the way. First of all, the fact that the men remain for so short a period with us indicates that if we did start employment, assigning men to it and equipping them, we should spend more in sending them there only to call them back next week to take the jobs we had found for them, than they could possibly have earned in the time. The class of men who are difficult to place are not the class for whom it is easy to find employment, as we have proved in connexion with forestry work. Another difficulty in finding employment is that the Commonwealth is not in the same position as the States, which have works of a variety of character and type going on all over their territory. The Commonwealth has very little work of that kind at which it can place men. It has, for instance, no control of the roads, which are entirely State matters. It would on all accounts have been difficult and unduly costly to create work specially for the men who remain with us, considering how brief the period is for which they sojourn with the Department.
I mentioned one effort we had made to obtain work for these men during the period of their idleness. I refer to forestry. On one occasion on which I addressed the Senate on the subject, I spoke of an agreement made with the States, by which men who could not otherwise be placed were given an opportunity to go to work at light forestry occupations. In order to secure the co-operation of the States in this regard, the Commonwealth undertook to pay 25 per cent, of the cost. We made that as a bonus grant to the State Governments, because we assumed that the men would not be thoroughly efficient, and the Repatriation Department was therefore called upon to pay for what was represented or regarded as the inefficiency of the men. The State paid 75 per cent., which was regarded as their efficient figure. The money, of course, was all advanced by the Commonwealth, but the 25 per cent, was by way of gift, and the 75 per cent, by way of loan. The results, however, have been distinctly disappointing. The men were given quite decent camp and personal equipment, and were placed under the best possible conditions which men in that class of work could, I think, expect; yet all the reports indicate that they go there for a week or two, and then disappear and come back again, and in many ways show that they are not prepared to accept that employment. This is disappointing to me, because there was reason to believe that this work, light in its character, and carried on in camps with a number of men about, would do much to build up those who were a little unsettled from their war experiences. Unfortunately all the reports indicate that we have not obtained results anything like commensurate, with the money spent in that direction.
I come now to vocational training. The scheme was originally designed for those who had been rendered unable to follow their pre-war occupations because of their injuries, and it was sought, therefore, to teach them some other trade or occupation to which those injuries would offer a minimum bar. But when we proceeded a little further with the problem, and men were coming, home in larger num bers, we discovered that there was a considerable percentage of our younger soldiers who had for some reason or other, probably through their misfortune rather than their fault, drifted into numberless blind alleys with no future ahead of them. These were such as boys who, when they enlisted at the age of eighteen or nineteen, were driving tradesmen’s carts for wages quite suitable for them as boys, but holding out no inducement to them when they returned to us as men. These men were largely unskilled,and many of them had no opportunity of acquiring skilled occupations. A scheme was therefore evolved to give an opportunity of technical training to all boys who at the time of enlistment had not passed their twentieth birthday. Some exception has been taken to the limit, and some people have urged that any soldier who comes back, and deserves vocational training, should get it. There were reasons for .that limitation. In the first place it was not thought desirable that the Department should by any of its proposals attract men from- an occupation of which they had a full knowledge, in which they had gained some years of experience, and which needed their services, to learn something of which they knew nothing. As an instance of the class of case referred to, we had men nearly fifty years of age, knowing country life from A to Z, putting in applications to be taught motor driving. That is only typical of many other cases. There was a strong tendency displayed by men to learn some occupation other than the one they knew, but the Commission and myself did not think that desirable in the public interest. “We did not think it desirable in the interest of the soldiers,- who under some temporary influence might desire to throw on ohe side all they had gained by past association with a trade or occupation, in order that they might become students at some other calling. We limited the scheme, therefore, for that reason, to the age mentioned. Another reason was this: It became quite evident from an examination of the problem that whilst the future of Australia is, we believe, limitless, its immediate present is not without limits, and there was a danger of training too many men for our industries in their present state of development, without running great risk of training more than could be satisfactorily placed. The scheme was originally designed for 20,000 men. That was the estimate of the number which we assumed would take advantage of it. Up to the present, we have completed the training of 4T079 men. These have passed through their training, have reached a full standard of efficiency, and are now out earning wages. We have in the classes to-day 7,328 men, and we have in factories as partially trained men, subsidized by the Department, a total of 3,998. That gives a total of 15,405 men. We have in addition 4,623 men attending night classes. There are many men who, knowing their occupations well, became ‘a little rusty as the Result of their war service, land we therefore developed a scheme by which those who were back at their old employment could attend night classes if they wished without any charge to themselves. They could follow their day occupations as they ordinarily did, and take advantage of the training offered during the night hours. It is very creditable, indeed, that so large a number of those men have taken advantage of the opportunity. Not only are 4,623 of them attending the night classes now, but 961 have finished their course. Thus, over 5,000 have taken advantage of the opportunity provided for them. This in itself is a sufficient justification for believing that the Department in that regard at least made no mistake. The total numbers I have given represent 20,989 men, who have received, or are receiving, the benefits of our vocational training system. The estimated cost of the original scheme was £1,813,365. We find, however, that these numbers are going to be exceeded. The vocational training is very popular, especially with the younger lads who come back here and see what they have missed. This is particularly the case with those who were allured by the high wages paid for many forms of boy labour when they left school, but who, now that they are men, see what it is to stand without any skilful occupation or calling, and are seeking with avidity this opportunity of remedying the defect. The numbers are consequently exceeding our estimate. We are endeavouring to cope with the increased numbers, but considerable difficulty has been created in the matter of finding equipment at a time when Australia’s marts and stores were empty of such requirements. Although I assume that honorable sena- tors know pretty well the lines upon which the scheme is based, I wish to place before them the three main divisions into which it falls. We have, first, the ordinary technical classes, and in this connexion we have received very great assistance from the technical schools of the State Education Department. The Commonwealth - as is only right - is “‘footing “ the bill, but these schools, to the extent of their resources, have been made available for our purposes with their instructors, and also their organization. The lads are first placed in these schools. If they obtain sufficient proficiency there to enable them to go direct into a factory, they do so; but the majority of them pass into a new institution which we call a trade school. This is a “ cross,” if I may use the term, between the school and the factory itself. Things are conducted there more on commercial lines, and an effort is made to turn the labour of these boys to commercial uses. Now experience has demonstrated that when a boy realizes that he is engaged in making something of utility, his interest im-. mediately quickens. If, for example, we supply him with a piece of wood and a plane, and instruct him how he is to become a carpenter, he merely reduces the wood to chips, and soon becomes quite > uninterested. But when he is engaged in making some article, he .at once becomes much more alert. It is for that reason, and in the interests of the pupil himself, that we have developed this new type of institution. The lad, having passed from the class to the trade school, after he has reached a degree of efficiency - never less than 40 per cent., but a degree of efficiency which, on the- whole, averages 50 per cent, or 60 per cent. - he is placed out in a factory under an arrangement made with the owner upon the following lines : - The employer is obliged to pay the assessed value of the degree of efficiency of the boy. Should this efficiency be assessed at 50 per cent., the employer pays upon that basis, and the Department makes up the difference between the amount thus paid and the standard wage of the industry. In regard to this matter, some thoughts may arise upon the question of the assessment. Throughout, we have recognised the importance, and, indeed the necessity of securing the cordial co-operation both of employers and of organized labour. In the very early days of repatriation, con- ferences were called at’ which the Trades Hall and Employers Association were represented. As a result of these conferences, an agreement was arrived at under which v.-e were free to place boys in the factories on the basis of one to six journeymen ordinarily employed. Subsidizing by the Department was also agreed to, and it was further arranged that the agency for regulating it should be a joint committee, upon which employers and employees are equally represented. These industrial committees, formed in the way I have mentioned, are relied upon by the Department to a very great extent indeed. We seek their advice before establishing a class, we seek their counsel as to the number of men who can be safely trained in that industry; and it is these bodies which assess the value of the boys who are placed in the factories, and who from time to time re-assess it, as the efficiency of the lads improves. I mention this fact to show that the scheme is being worked on a common-sense and commendable plan. We should have had almost an impossible job had we attempted to run it without the assistance of employers and employees.
– Is it proposed to make any alteration, so far as theological students are concerned ?
– I do not know what particular point the honorable senator has in his mind. If he will allow me to deal to-day, not with particular cases, but with the principles upon which we are endeavouring to run the Department, I shall be obliged. It is a little difficult to turn from those general principles to particular cases.
With regard to vocational training, whilst obviously it will be of great benefit to the boys who receive such training, it will also be a national asset if we can convert from 20,000 to 30,000 unskilled workmen into skilled operatives. Now the whole of Australia is looking forward to a period of marked and increased industrial activity. That increased industrial activity cannot proceed as rapidly as we would like, unless we have the requisite amount of skilled labour available. If, therefore, the Department, by creating this aid to expansion, can increase the number of skilled workmen, it will have done a. little outside its immediate job, in hastening forward the development of this country. There is one way in which trainees are being utilized. Amongst other classes started we have classes for training operatives in the building trade, and some of our trainees are now engaged in building homes which are being constructed for the War Service Homes Commissioner. We have arranged with the Commissioner that he shall give us the construction of some of these homes at the prices which they have cost him, or at those at which he lets their erection on contract. Here, again, we are net making any money, but we are thus enabled to train these boys on the actual job itself. To put them in a school, to allow them to build merely 3 or 4 feet of a brick wall, and then to knock it down again - as in the case which I have quoted of the boy equipped with a plane and a piece of wood - is not half as useful in the way of training as to give them the building of the wall of a house which is going to stand. By putting boys alongside skilled operatives, we are providing them with the necessary training, and doing something to overcome that dearth of labour which is being experienced in connexion with the housing scheme. We have only a few boys thus engaged, but we are rapidly increasing their number. It is strange that considerable difficulty is found in inducing the lads to take up some of these trades. They have no objection to carpentering, but evidently they dislike bricklaying and plastering. I am a little surprised that they have not taken to these trades with great avidity, as not only are the wages paid in them considerably above the award rates, but the Department is in a position to guarantee the lads work for some years to come. Yet they are apparently more anxious to crowd into trades the outlook for which is not nearly so bright. I am hopeful, however, that they will yet take up the occupations I have mentioned in preference to the one of their first choice. In the shaping of this scheme, I ask honorable senators to pay particular attention to the figures which I have given. It does not sound much when I talk of training 20,000 men, but it means a lot to get the requisite buildings and instructors for them within a few months. Th*> Department was at one time faced with difficulties which seemed insurmountable. Time was too pressing to permit of building the schools. Such buildings as could be secured had to be purchased or rented.
Then Australiawas practically bare of equipment. Honorable senators may learn from going into a shophow scarce are even ordinary tools. Only a few weeks ago I went into Messrs Anthony Hordern and. Sons, in Sydney, to purchase a very simple little tool. I was told that they had not got it. I was so surprised - because it is a little tool that any handy mechanic could make for himself - that I said something of a rather critical character about the want of enterprise on the part of the firm in failing to have such a tool. The shopman replied, “ You will probably be surprised to learn that we have not had a gimlet in the place for months.” I did not believe him, and I therefore went to the shopwalker, who confirmed his statement. What is more, he said, “I cannot tell you when we will have it.” Australia is to-day short of hundreds of these little tools. We were still more short of such things as lathes and the bigger articles of plant necessary for technical schools.
– It is about time that we made our own.
– It is quite clear from what I am saying that the time is overdue. I am not now raising the fiscal question, which is ever in the mind of my honorable friend, Senator Pratten, but I am pointing out the difficulty with which the Department has been confronted. May I say, in view of the lavish criticism to which the Department has been subjected, that I feel quite justified in making this statement ? So great have been the difficulties of obtaining plant that it has been necessary sometimes to purchase a complete plant in order to obtain certain articles out of it that were not otherwise obtainable, and sell the balance at the best price we could. Second-hand plant has been purchased wherever we could get it, in order to make up our deficiencies in equipment. We have appealed to manufacturers to help us, so far as they could, and by degrees we are overcoming the difficulties. We are not yet fully equipped, but I can say that we are beginning to see daylight ahead.
Another difficulty arose in providing instructors. Every skilled workman is not necessarily a competent instructor. A man may be a skilled workman and lack the capacity to impart his knowledge to others. We have experienced con siderable difficulty in obtaining instructors, but that difficulty is also being overcome. There has been inevitable delay, due to having to put a square peg in a round hole, but we have been gradually obtaining the round peg for the round hole. The delay, though regrettable, has not been wilful.
I have now to say a word with respect to the 215,248 applications which have been received under the heading of “General Assistance.” That heading embraces 101 different things, such as transport, tools, furniture, funerals, widow and children’s allowances, medical assistance, and, indeed, every possible benefit or help which the returned soldier may need at our hands. Two hundred and fifteen thousand two hundred and forty-eight applications is a very considerable number, and it is very necessary that applications of the kind should be looked into. People speak of the rigidity of red-tape regulations, but it is impossible to run a Department through which the Government are dispensing benefits without having checks and regulations.
– Can the honorable senator give any idea of the number of individuals concerned apart from the number of applications?
– The total number of persons on whose behalf applications have been made is 173,957, and collectively they were responsible for 406,692 applications. I do not propose to refer to the various items under the heading of “General Assistance,” but with respect to the medical organization I should like to say that the Commissioners felt that it was not only the country’s duty to put men in good health for to-day, but that we were under an, obligation if at any time as the result of war services there should be a recurrence of a man’s invalidity to see that he is cared for”. As a result of the adoption of that policy provision is now made by which any soldier anywhere suffering a recurrence of any war malady or an illness due to his war service may, in his own locality, secure medical attendance and medicine free, and, if necessary, transport arrangements will be made to send him to the nearest medical hospital. This provision is without limit as to time, and I believe that the Senate will indorse the view expressed by the Repatriation Commission that we are bound to look after the returned soldier’s health at any time when it becomes impaired as the result of his war services.
– We could not do much more than that.
– This is one of the, things about which the country knows’ very little, ‘and it should be placed to our credit in the ledger in the efforts which we make to look after the returned soldier.
I pass from that to refer to what is done for the benefit of those most seriously stricken men, the totally and permanently incapacitated. These terms are used with varying meaning, but are interpreted literally by the Department of Repatriation. In view of the nature of the war, the number of our men totally incapacitated is fortunately smaller than might have been expected. These include men who are hopelessly crippled or paralyzed - spine cases - men to whom we can offer no hope of restoration to health. For these men we have established in every State, with the exception of Tasmania, a hostel intowhich they can go if they please. Honorable senators representing Victoria are no doubt familiar with the Anzac Hostel here, and honorable senators representing New South Wales will know of the two hostels of the kind established in Sydney. They aTe all of the same type, and similar provision is made iD connexion with each of them. The only difference is that in Sydney the buildings were given to us gratuitously, one being the gift of Sir Thomas Dibbs, and the other the gift of the Jockey Club, and both are run under the auspices of the Red Cross Society, the Repatriation Department accepting financial responsibility and controlling the men who go in and out of those hospitals. In Victoria and other States these hostels come under the control of the Department directly. This is not by choice; and even now, should any citizen feel disposed to foot the bill in this regard, we should accept the offer with gratitude. We have moved directly in States other than New South Wales, not with the idea of interfering with any projected activity of the Red Cross societies, but because the need for action was there, and no one was for the time meeting it. For most of the unfortunate men for whom these institutions have been established the best we can do is to make them as comfortable as their physical condition will permit. This provision has, however, been made. With the idea of to some extent breaking the monotony of their lives, we have arranged that wherever these men can leave these institutions without physical detriment, transport and other arrangements will be provided to enable them to make periodical visits to their homes or their friends, and in the case of those whose condition is such that they cannot with safety leave the institutions, transport facilities will be provided and expenses defrayed to enable their friends to see them periodically in the hospitals.
I turn now to another and important section qf repatriation work, and that ia the land settlement of returned soldiers. This, as honorable senators are aware, i» not directly under the control of tie Repatriation Department. The opinion; has been expressed that it would be better if it were. I remind honorable senators that there are very good reasons why we have worked in co-operation with the States in this matter. The Commonwealth has no land jurisdiction, has no land, and no Lands Department, whilst the State Governments possess all three. It appeared in the early days a reasonable division of responsibility for the Commonwealth to make some financial provision, and leave to the State Governments familiar with the work the duty of placing the men on the soil. In pursuance of that idea, the Commonwealth undertook to find for the States a sum of money amounting to from £30,000,000 to £40,000,000. I think it is already clear that the larger amount mentioned will have to be exceeded. Part of the money advanced was to provide the settler with £625 of working capital; but a large proportion of the amount was for the purpose of enabling the State Governments to construct railways and other public works necessary to the development of the land on which the soldier was to settle. One of the conditions attached to the advance of this money to the States for these works was that, so far as practicable, returned soldiers should be employed upon them. I regret to have to inform honorable senators and the coontry that that condition is not, to my mind, being carried out satisfactorily. I find that in New South Wales only 18.3 per cent, of the men employed on the railways financed with Commonwealth money under this scheme are returned soldiers. The Queensland Government expressed themselves as unable to give me any information on this point. They say that whilst preference is given to returned soldiers, they keep no records, and, therefore, cannot supply an answer to my question.
– The figures might be very bad for them if they did.
– I am rather disposed to think that that is a possible explanation of their inability to supply the figures I require.
– It might be the other way about.
– I never knew the Queensland Government, or, indeed, any other Government, to be indisposed to proclaim a fact if it would redound to their credit. I am disposed to think that the results in Queensland are no better than, if they aTe as good as, the results in New South Wales, because the Deputy Repatriation Commissioner for Queensland, who was asked to move in this matter in order to discover whether the soldiers and the Repatriation Department were getting the square deal to which they are entitled, has reported that it is simply impossible for him to look for the cooperation of the State Labour Bureau in his efforts to see that returned soldiers get the work intended for them. That is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs.
– Could we not stop the money?
– My honorable friend, with his business mind, sees that the Commonwealth is not without resource. But there is a difficulty in the way. We are dealing with railways or public works intended to open up districts in which returned soldiers are being settled. If we stop the construction of a railway in such a district, we may put the State Government in an awkward position, but we should very likely hurt the soldier who has taken.up a block in that district in anticipation of the construction of the railway.
– Has the Minister any record of the number of soldiers so far given employment on these works who have given up their jobs?
– I am quite prepared to believe that some who have been employed have given up their jobs. In such a case no one could complain of the State Railway Department concerned, but it appears to me that when fewer “ than 19 out of every 100 employed on such works are returned soldiers there is something wrong somewhere.
– The returned, soldiers might not care about the job.
– Possibly some would not, but I submit that when we consider the number of returned’ soldiers who are looking for work, and that only 19 out of every 100 employed on works for which they, should have the first call are returned soldiers, that indicates a very unsatisfactory condition of things.
– In the course of another twelve months things will alter in Queensland.
– I cannot wait for twelve months, and I do not propose to do so. I have mentioned two States in this connexion, not because the position in the other States is any better or any worse, but because up to date I have been unable to get figures from the other States. I have, of course, spoken the smooth word in my request, for this information, but I have in mind what Senator Pratten evidently has also in mind, that we are entitled to ask for this information when we are finding the money. I am taking steps to adjust this difficulty. There are many other difficulties in connexion with the land settlement of soldiers which honorable senators will be aware of, even on the doubtful authority of the press, and it has become necessary to invite a further conference of Land Ministers, at which these difficulties may be threshed out. I think it is .possible, face-to-face with men around a table, to do more work in a week than could be done in twelve months by correspondence. I hope shortly to be able to arrange for a conference at which these and other matters can be inquired into.
– Are many of the men leaving their holdings after taking them up?
– I cannot tell the honorable senator. I submit that it is a little early yet to decide whether or not the land settlement of returned soldiers is successful. It is not difficult to settle a man on a block so long as his money lasts. The real test will come when his money is gone, and we have not yet reached the stage at which we can speak definitely as to the’ result of this policy.
I turn now to the last and very important activity of the Repatriation Department, in connexion with the establishment of war service homes. Here I wish to take the opportunity of dealing with a good deal of criticism that has been offered regarding .the agreement with the Commonwealth Bank “ and the way it is being carried out. That agreement was tabled in the Senate, and every honorable senator had an opportunity of looking at it. I cannot recall’ any exception being taken to its terms. I mention this because of the marvellous display of wisdom after the event. When introducing the War Service Homes Bill I stated that it was proposed to utilize the State Savings Banks in order to avoid any duplication of machinery, and I ‘ have been taken to task because I utilized the Commonwealth Bank instead. Some people profess that this was duplication, but I may point out that whether the State Savings Banks or the Commonwealth Bank had been utilized, it would have been necessary to employ additional staff, and this would have represented an added charge against the war service homes.’ This was provided for in the agreement. I first endeavoured to arrange with the Commonwealth Bank before opening negotiations .with the State Banks. At about that time Mr. Miller, the Governor of the :Commonwealth Bank, had occasion to go to England, and during his absence there arose certain difficulties which rendered it improbable that an agreement would be arrived at. I then entered into negotiations with the State Savings Bank authorities, but they wished to insert in the agreement certain conditions which I did not like, and Mr. Miller, the’ responsible authority of his Bank, having returned in the meantime, it was possible for us to arrive at an agreement with the Commonwealth Bank upon better terms. The reason why I turned to the Commonwealth Bank was that it is a Commonwealth institution, and, other things being equal, it ought to be the duty of a Minister to place his financial work with it. ‘ Another reason why I preferred the Commonwealth Bank to a State Savings Bank was that we would be dealing with one authority for the whole of Australia instead of six separate Boards or Commissioners. There was another and very important reason. The State institutions - I discussed the matter with two of the larger banks - wanted fees for their directors. In the ease of the Victorian Savings Bank, the authorities insisted on a fee of 4$ guineas per sitting for the chairman, and 3 guineas each for the four members of the board, as well as £500 for the Inspector-General I put it to them that . our Repatriation Commissioners were doing for nothing infinitely more than they would be called upon to do, and asked them if they could not see their way clear to act without reward. They declined. That was one of the chief difficulties. The Commonwealth Bank has not charged anything for its overhead administrative charges’. Another reason why I turned to the Commonwealth Bank was that the State institutions asked for compensation if the agreement were terminated at any time within ten years. Under our arrangement with the Commonwealth Bank we have the right to terminate the agreement, without compensation, by giving a few months’ notice. In view of these facts I think it will be admitted that there was every justification for my action. Indeed, I should have been doing wrong had I hesitated about making the arrangement with the Commonwealth Bank.
I come now to the terms of the agreement which have been so much criticised. The first point is that the Bank is paying its architects 3) per cent, for the preparation of plans and supervision of buildings. Let me remind honorable senators that most of these complaints have come from outside architects. I do not object to their moving in a matter in which they are professionally interested, but I point out that the men who are now complaining about this 3$ per cent, commission were, at the time the agreement was made, charging 5 per cent;, and have since raised their fees to 6 per cent.
– I think the complaint was that the Bank architects had more work than they could do.
– It is not the architects who are causing any delay in construction. The 31/2 per cent. covers very many expenses, such as supervision fees to country architects who may be instructed to look after houses being built in the country. Under the arrangement, the Bank has the power to appoint such officers as may be thought necessary to carry out the work; but I stipulated for the insertion of a clause to the effect that if at any time the Bank incurred expense which was judged unreasonable, I should have the right to refer it to the Commonwealth Auditor-General, whose decision should be final. That was a reasonable business precaution, which I think amply meets the contention of those who take exception to the payment of the 31/2 per cent. commission. When I learned that 31/2 per cent. was being paid to the Bank’s architects, I communicated with the Governor of the Bank, informing him that, from what I could see, it was a charge which I could not pass without question, and that I should have to submit it to the AuditorGeneral. If that officer decided that it was a fair and reasonable charge, we would pay it; but if, on the other hand, he thought it an unfair charge, we would not pay it.
– But could not some of the work be distributed among returned soldier architects?
– A very reasonable percentage - I think about three out of four - of the men employed by the Bank’s architects are returned men. I do not wish to weary honorable senators, but perhaps it would be as well to read the letter which I wrote to Mr. Miller on the subject. It is as follows: -
Department of Repatriation,
Head-quarters, Melbourne, 14th November, 1919.
Dear Sir, - The question of the payment being made by you to your bank’s architect in connexion with the War Service Homes Act is becoming one of increasing urgency. In previous discussions with you on this matter I have pointed out that this Department is not committed to these charges, and when debited with them resort will be had to clause 22 of the agreement between the Commissioner and the bank, under which the reasonableness or otherwise of the charge will be remitted to the arbitrament of the Auditor-General. While this isthe strictly legal course, as indicated by the agreement, I think it desirable, on the principle that prevention is better than cure, that we should have a further discussion on the matter, and. to this end I shall be glad if upon your return from Tasmania an appointment can be made.
To that Mr. Miller replied-
Dear Sir, - I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 14th instant re payment of fees to bank’s architects in connexion with the War Service Homes Act, and in reply beg to advise you that the bank’s architects are engaged with the preparation of plans and specifications, and supervision and erection of war service homes at the rate of 1 per cent. for plans and 21/2 per cent. for supervision, &c., or £3 10s. per cent. on cost of home. When they employ country architects, they have to pay them half of the 21/2 per cent. commission allowed for supervision,&c., 21/2 per cent. for preparing plans and specifications, and 21/2 per cent. for supervision is the rate fixed by the Institute of Architects throughout Australia, and as far as I know it would not be possible to get any leading architects to do it for less, and first class archiects could not be engaged on a salary.
So far, 419 contracts have been let for buildings, and it will be some months before they are finalized. This, at an average of £600 per home, means £251,400, 31/2 per cent. on which is, say, £8,800. The architects are keeping books of account of their costs, and have appointed prominent auditors in each. State capital to audit their books, so that we will know whether the commission allowed is much more than their expenses, and if it is, an’ adjustment will be made. They are quite willing to this course beingadopted, andI may say they are employing returned soldiers wherever possible, and their staffs are comprised almost wholly of returned men.
I propose going into the matter as at the 31st December, 1919, when nearly six months’ work will have been done. As far as I can judge at present, I do not expect the bank’s b uilding operations to amount to more than 2,000 to 2,500 houses per year for the next three or four years. I think that payment by. results will prove to be the proper course, but if not, as already stated, the fees will be adjusted.
– The complaint is that the architects have been paid more than they can really earn.
– That is the point around which this discussion ranges. I felt that 31/2 per cent. commission is an excessive charge, bearing in mind the largo numberof houses beingbuilt, and the standardization of plans; and I have taken the course which is open to me by stipulating for the reference of this matter to the Auditor-General for opinion.
– Why have the services of the Bank architects been utilized, in view of the fact that we have the War Service Homes . Commissioner and his staff?’
– When the housing scheme was launched, the idea was that the Commissioner and his staff should address themselves to the work of group building, in much the same manner as speculators, buying land in large areas, subdividing it, and buying materials in large quantities, in order to meet applications of soldiers returning to their home-land; and that, meanwhile, the Bank was to build, in response to individual applications, houses in different localities. In this way, it was thought possible to overtake arrears of applications ; but I am sorry to say that difficulties, due to the inevitable competition of two buyers operating in the same market, have arisen. There are other reasons which, perhaps, it is not necessary to refer to now; but I want to tell the Senate that a new agreement is being negotiated with the Bank by which, in future, all building applications will be dealt with by the Commissioners, and the Bank will merely act as financial agents, paying out the money and receiving repayments of loans. By this means, we hope to get rid of the competition.
A good deal has been said about the delay in construction. So far as these complaints come from returned soldiers, I can sympathize with them; but I want to point out that, at the outset, we were confronted with extraordinary difficulties, owing to the fact that large numbers of men were returning home, and that Australia had practically ceased building operations during the war. It was not easy, therefore, to meet the demand. All the same, I have much sympathy with impatient men who have coma back, either married or about to marry, and who want to get into their own homes; but il have not much sympathy with those interested parties - I refer particularly to one bunch of critics - who are criticising the Housing Commissioner, for obvious reasons. As to the delay that has occurred, honorable senators should know the difficulties in regard to labour and material. Let any honorable senator endeavour to get a room added on to his house, or to buy timber, and he will see exactly where he stands. So greatly was I impressed with the difficulty of getting both labour and material - and labour is more -difficult to secure than timber - that I’ ‘requested the Housing Commissioner to supply me with a statement showing . the number of bricklayers available in Sydney and in Melbourne. He obtained from the unions a statement to the effect that the total number of bricklayers in Sydney and Melbourne is 1,970 men. This number I am informed is sufficient to construct three cottages each per year, or 5,910 cottages for the whole number if they were massed on this particular work. But we have to deductthose who are engaged on industrial undertakings, and employed on repair work, to get the actual number available for the erection of war service homes. Notwithstanding these figures we have to remember that the Housing Commissioner is in direct competition with private builders and other individuals. We cannot make bricks without straw, and we cannot build houses without tradesmen.
There is another material factor that must not be overlooked, and that is the frequent occurrence of industrial disturbances. There has been more than one occasion when one strike has followed another, and when operations have been suspended on this account. During periods of strikes, building operations have been at a standstill, not only with the Housing Commissioner, but others as well. If private speculators had been proceeding with their work they could point to us and say that the Housing Commissioner was not doing his work, but that officer has been receiving more bricks than all the other builders combined. When the seamen’s strike occurred, and coal was not available, the Coal Board determined that brickmaking was not an essential industry, and consequently supplies were withheld. Moreover, there was not a bag of cement to be obtained in the city, and the only cement available was that held by the Housing Commissioner. To illustrate the shortage, I cite the construction of a technical school which was delayed because supplies <of cement were not available. We approached the eontractor, and he said that he could not obtain cement. We therefore obtained a consignment from Canberra, as’ it was very necessary to complete the school and make it available at the earliest possible moment. Although it was not a condition in the contract, the Government paid railage on the cement from Canberra rather than delay the work any longer. What is the use of talking about delay when material is scarce, and labour even scarcer, and bricklayers, who are so urgently required, are now saying that they will not work more than five days a. -week ?
– They do not work that number of days here.
– And the other night when I asked honorable senators to work a few minutes longer Senator 0 ‘Loghlin objected.
– I. did not.
– But the honorable senator was in sympathy with those who did.
I come now to some of the interested parties who are attacking us. They seem to mistake the purpose for which the Repatriation Department was created. This Department was not created to look after their interests, but those of the soldiers. The Department was not created to place fees in the pockets of private people. The Housing Commissioner is faced with the serious obligation of seeing that he builds for the soldier the cheapest possible house, irrespective of all other considerations. Amongst the very severe critics are those of the master builders, who have circularized members of Parliament with a story of their grievances, and I would like to detain the Senate for a brief period while I deal with one or two of their complaints. In connexion with the alleged delay of the Housing Commissioner, the master builders say -
The Melbourne building trade is becoming paralyzed by the unfair interference with working conditions by the War Workers’ Homes Commission.
I submit that if the Housing Commissioner is idle’ he cannot be paralyzing anything, and if he is paralyzing the building industry of Australia it is quite clear that he is not as inactive as the master builders suggest. They go on -
The latter is developing into a huge constructional combine, and is pushing the master builder out of business by the following practices : - Builders are asked to tender for work, with the proviso that the cottages must not cost over a certain figure. The figure is fixed ridiculously low, hence the tenders, being above the stated price, are not accepted.
Now, no intimation is gaven to the tenderers as to’ price, but they know the limit in the Act is £700, and out of the group of 600 contractors ‘only six have tendered. Perhaps they cannot tender at the figure I have quoted, and that is why they complain. If the Housing Commissioner could not get houses built at this figure they might say that something was wrong, but he is building within that limit, and therefore it is idle for these men to say that either the terms of the tender or the price prevents them from tendering. The fact is that they are not able to build at the price at which the Housing Commissioner is building. Their complaint continues -
The Commission then takes on the work by day labour, with the following points in its favour over the master builders: - It obtains bricks from the brickmakers at 483. per 1,000, the price to builders being 2s. per 1,000 dearer, viz., ,50s. per 1,000.
No one can blame the Housing Commissioner for purchasing bricks as cheaply as he can, particularly when we remember that it is the soldier who gets the benefit. He is obtaining that discount because he is a large purchaser, and there can be no possible complaint on that ‘score. When the original Bill was before the Senate I estimated that, as we would be buying in large quantities, we would be able to build houses for £50 or £60 cheaper than a private contractor, and that has proved to be the case. No one has any right to say that the Commissioner is not faithfully performing his important duties when he saves every possible penny, seeing that the soldier, and not the Treasury, benefits. The statement of the master builders that the Housing Commissioner .alone gets the benefit is not true. According to the advertisement, a contractor may obtain the whole or any of the material from the Commissioner if so desired, ir,he Housing Commissioner is prepared to supply the material, including bricks, .at the prices quoted, and the contractor can tender for labour if he so desires; Abut he is not doing that. The statement of the master builders goes on -
The Commission, not having the financial responsibility of the private builder, can give any price for its labour, hence offered 18s. per day for bricklayers, being 3s. per day over the regulation wage agreed upon between master builders and the Bricklayers Union, and the Commission is guaranteeing at least twelve months’ continual employment. This increase of wages is continuing, not only with bricklayers, but with all tradesmen.
The Housing Commissioner did not increase wages at all, as the master builders first increased the rate, and the Housing Commissioner had to pay the same figure. He is paying what they are paying, and they could be supplied with the material at cost price. The whole thing comes down, to this : The prices at which ten- ders were submitted were so grossly excessive that the Commissioner, although wishing to avoid day labour, had either to cease operations or to conduct his work on the day labour system. They further state -
The Commission is defying building regulations by building cottage walls 1 foot lower than regulation height, viz., 9 feet.
When the Commission first started, nine cottages were built without due regard to the ^regulations of local authorities; but, when attention was drawn to the matter, it was immediately rectified, and since then not a single cottage has been built that does not conform to such regulations. It is many months since walls have been built under the regulation height, but the master builders apparently think it worth while to again bring the matter forward. The builders further claim that the day system involves a waste of money. Tenders were invited for the construction of ten houses at Surrey Hills, and the average of the tenders was £706.
– How many rooms ?
– -That does not affect the position in this connexion. The amount of’ the: advance is fixed by the Act at £700, and as that includes the price of land it is quite clear that the Commissioner could not accept such outside offers even if he desired. He had to turn down the whole proposition, or see at what price he could build. At Carnegie 150 brick cottages of six different types were to be constructed, and the tenders averaged £791. Again, I say, the Commissioner, even if he so desired, could not have accepted such a price. He is now building at an estimated dost of £597. Tenders were called for the erection of 29 cottages at Wonthaggi, and a tender for labour only was accepted. Tenders were also called for the building of 64 cottages at Sunshine, and the tenders averaged £624, as against the Commissioner’s estimate of £527. I have never been an advocate of day labour, because I have always1 recognised its weaknesses, resulting from the absence of close personal supervision, but the Government or its Commissioner would not have been justified in holding up the work because he could not get tenders at the price offered. Had he adhered to the contract system, he would have thrown an unnecessary burden upon the shoulders of those who were purchasing these properties. I have been authorized by the Commissioner, to say that he is still prepared to let contracts to reputable builders for the construction of houses at the same price at which he is now building them in numbers of from one to a thousand, and he cannot do more than that.
I desire to ask honorable senators, if they have the time, to pay a visit to some of the cottages erected, and also to visit the vocational training school. If they do that, I am sure they will find their visit both interesting and informative. I feel that much that the Department is doing is not sufficiently known, even by members of Parliament, and I would like honorable senators to place themselves in a position to answer much of the idle criticism which is -being offered. I shall be only too pleased to make the necessary arrangements for such a visit if ‘ honorable senators will advise me of a suitable time.
Up to the present 152 houses have been completed, and’ the purchasers are in possession. In addition, 1,255 buildings are now in course of erection, contracts have been let for the construction of 681 others, and land has been purchased on which 7,243 homes can be erected. Tenders have also been called for the erection of 3,703 other houses. The homes already erected and purchased by the “Department number 3,607, and 1,294 mortgages have been lifted and transferred to the bank. The total cost of this work is £2,629,006. One gratifying feature I would like to mention. When the Bill was first brought in it provided that soldiers could secure homes without a deposit.
– Has the Minister included those houses erected by the Commonwealth Bank?
– Yes. When the Bill was first introduced, it was said that if soldiers were supplied with homes without a deposit we would be courting a risk not previously or ordinarily accepted by financial institutions. There was obviously that measure of risk in it, but I am glad to be able to tell the Senate that out of £17,519 lis. 9d. of repayments due, we are only £305 17?. 6d. in arrears, or 1.7 per cent. That does not mean because there are arrears that it is anything serious, but even if it were, that percentage is very gratifying. The question has been raised here as to whether the limit of £700 in the Act is sufficient in view of the increased price of labour and material. The Commissioner is quite clear that he can continue to build the present four-roomed type at that money, provided that labour and material do not go up any further. But as it is quite evident also that a number of soldiers require a somewhat larger house - as men with two or three children naturally require more room than newly-married couples - it has been decided by the Government to increase the limit to £800. The Commissioner thinks that with that increase, and by his present methods of organizing supplies and group construction, he can still build the very useful type of cottage he is building how, with an additional room, within the limit. I propose shortly to bring down to Parliament a Bill authorizing an increase of the present limit of £700 to £800.
I come now, somewhat late, to the new Bill. If I have’ been unduly long in explaining our activities, I can only apologize to the Senate. The new Bill contains three main amendments on the existing legislation. The first provides for the amalgamation of pensions and repatriation. Those two departments have hitherto been separate. It is now proposed to bring them into one. The second amendment provides for increases of pensions and the inclusion as pensions in many cases of those allowances hitherto made by the Repatriation authorities. The third main amendment is the substitution of a paid Commission and paid Boards for the present, honorary bodies. When the pensions were first introduced they were a fixed statutory payment, and to the Repatriation Department was left the duty of supplementing them where circumstances seemed to call for additional aid. When introducing the first Repatriation, Bill, I intimated the intention to merge the two services into one. Whilst the advisability of doing that was always present, I have for a very considerable period hesitated to put it into effect. During the early stages of the Department it was clear that, apart from the novelty of the problems with which we had to deal, there was the further difficulty of creating a trained staff. It is no reflection upon the officers of the Department to say that many of them came there untrained for departmental work of any kind, and still less were they familiar with the problems of repatriation. You cannot collect a scratch team and make it efficient in a few days, and I felt, with our responsibilities coming thick upon us, that it would be unwise to add to them by throwing the burden of pensions on the staff before we were ready for it. Another reason for delay was that fresh legislation was required, and honorable senators are aware of the circumstances which rendered it impossible to pass such legislation towards the end of last year. We have now got over those difficulties, and the Senate is asked to sanction a proposal to bring under one authority and one roof both those main benefits provided by the Government in the interests of the soldiers. Experience has justified the statement that between pensions and repatriation allowances, or many of them, the only difference is that of name. It really does not make much difference whether you pay a man a certain sum per week and call it a. pension or a repatriation allowance. The main thing is that he gets it, and the amount which he is to get. Experience has also revealed many anomalies, and some insufficiencies, in the present pensions scale.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Extension of time granted, on motion by Senator Earle.
– I appreciate the action of the Senate. Another factor which has weighed with the Government is the increased cost of living, which has been very distinct since the pension and1 repatriation allowances were adopted.. The increased cost of the pensions and allowances provided under this Bill is estimated at from £1,000,000 to- £1,250,000.’ It is a little difficult to furnish the Senate with a more definite estimate. That is the best which the Treasury or the Department, or both the Treasury and the Repatriation officialsconferring together, can furnish. The principal increases under the new scale are as follow: - There is an increase in the basic rate from 30s. to £2 2s. Whilst 30s. under the existing Act, or £2 2s. under the new Bill, is the amount paid for totally incapacitated cases, the in- crease in the basic rate necessarily increases proportionately the pensions paid to the partly incapacitated. They receive smaller pensions according to the percentage of their disability. A man who was 50 per cent, incapacitated received 50 per cent, of the then basic rate of 30s. If he is still 50 per centincapacitated, he will how receive £1 ls. The basic rate set out in the schedule, therefore, equally and beneficially affects all those less seriously injured. There is a special schedule in the new Bill for the blinded, and for that class to whom I referred earlier, that is, the totally and permanently incapacitated. Provision is made to allow these a pension of £4 per week. In view of the severity of their affliction, I venture to believe that the Senate will not regard that sum as out of the way.
– Has the honorable senator any figures regarding the numbers receiving these pensions?
– I can obtain the figures for the honorable senator, but I take this opportunity to state that it is very gratifying to myself and to the whole country to know that the number of those so seriously injured is very much less than one might have expected, bearing in mind the character of the war. The total number of blinded is not more than 100. It is a little difficult to give exact figures, because there are some on the border-line who may recover their sight, or may not. But it is safe to say that not more than 100 men are sightless as the result of our warlike operations. The maximum number of the totally and permanently incapacitated will not exceed 150. When one remembers the deadly instruments of modern warfare, one might have been pardoned for making the mistake, into which I fell, of assuming that we would have not a comparatively few, but almost a countless many.
– The total pensions being paid now amount to about £6,000,000, and the Senate will be entitled to know the particulars in due course.
– I think the particulars have already been published, but if not, I will obtain them. The pension for wives is lifted from 15s. to 18s., and for childless widows from 20s. to 23s. 6d., with a provision that where circum stances call for it, the Commission can increase the amount to 42s., which is the rate made available to widows with children. Of course the widow with children receives also the pension available for each child. It may be thought that the amount of 23s. 6d. for a widow without children is insufficient, and should be augmented. Rightly or wrongly, the Commission has taken the view that where a woman, by reason of age, ill-health, or other circumstances, needs additional assistance she should get it, but that the young widow without children, in full possession of all her faculties, health, and strength, has no special claim for anything more than the amount now provided, and that it is not altogether desirable to offer to those women, who are an asset to. the country, and many of whom can perform useful work, any special inducement to abstain from following it. The old Act gives them £1, with permission for the Commissioner to make a special allowance where circumstances require it. That sum is now raised to 23s. 6d., with a similar proviso. The widow with children receives £2 2s., and the old pension rate of 10s. for the first child, 7s. 6d. for the second-child, and 5s. for each succeeding child.
With regard to the substitution of a paid Commission and paid Boards for the present honorary bodies, I should like here to pay a tribute to the magnificent and unselfish, if unseen, work performed by the gentlemen who compose those bodies, and the same to a less extent applies to the members of Local Committees.’ I have seen the Commission, night after night, working down there long after midnight, and the3e are not idle men. They have their own business concerns. Some of the members of our Boards are connected with the biggest industrial affairs in our capital cities, but they work there without >any hope or expectation of reward, except the consciousness of having helped in this job, and of giving some of their valuable time to the discharge of what they conceive to be their duty. So far as I have been able to judge, not only have they had no recognition or appreciation from the public, but the most that they have earned as the result of their unselfish labour has been a thoughtless gibe or abuse from uninformed critics. It is due to those gentlemen that I should make that statement. Had it not been for the Commission, it would not have been possible for me or any other man to carry on. They have taken off my shoulders a load of work which had to be done by some responsible authority. By their persistent and devoted attention to duty they made it possible, particularly in the earlier stages of this undertaking, to get the machine moving with more or less satisfactory results. The same applies/to the Boards, and in a smaller degree to the Local Committees. When we formed some 700 Local Committees and six Boards throughout Australia, it was inevitable, seeing that there would be upon them men of strong personality and independent thought, that there would be here and there a clash between some of them and the central authorities. The point to which I wish to direct attention is that the clashes have been so few. If a Local Committee is perturbed at some decision of the central authorities and takes any action, the fact is wired all over Australia, and appears under big black headlines. But there are 700 of these Committees, and, speaking from memory, I am safe in saying that not with twenty of them has there been anything in the nature of friction. That is very fine testimony to the character of the men working on them and their desire to help forward this movement, and incidentally it is somewhat significant as to the way in which the Department itself is discharging its job.
The present Commission is not an administrative body. It is really a legislative body for the Repatriation Department. It determines the benefits to be allotted and hears appeals from applicants dissatisfied with the Board’s decisions. The new Commission, in addition to those duties, will be also administrative. The State Boards will not be administrative. They will discharge duties at present discharged under the Pensions Act by the Deputy Commissioners of Pensions. They will receive and deal with applications, and review them from time to time. They will also deal with applications submitted, by soldiers, so far as the application is of such a nature as to justify its going to a Board, and will generally perform the duties of the present State Boards. The tenure of the Commission is proposed to be five years. There are to be three members of the Commission, one of whom is to be appointed from the nominees of the Returned Soldiers’ League. The Boards will have a tenure of two years, and will also contain a representative nominated by the soldiers. The proposal in the Bill is that the Boards shall be paid either by way of salaries or by fees, but the Commission will be paid by salaries. The reason for this alternative method of payment in the case of State Boards is that, while it may not be difficult in the larger States to secure competent men for the position at such a salary as Parliament will be justified in paying, there is a strong probability that, in some of the smaller States, it may be necessary to offer a salary in excess, of the value of the work to be done, otherwise we may not be able to get the type of man that we require. It is thought, therefore, that provision should be made by which the Government should have the option of appointing men on a fixed salary or of remunerating them by fees. If the latter course be adopted we may be able to command the services of the men who are best equipped for the job.
– And who will not become civil servants?
– I have never found that consideration a serious disability provided that the salary offered is right.
Just one other point and I shall bring my remarks to a conclusion.
– The machinery in regard to the Councils and Local Committees will be the same as at present?
– Yes. It will, of course, be competent for the new Commission, if it thinks such a course desirable, to alter the regulations under which the Local Committees exist from time to time.
Honorable senators will be interested to know what this work of repatriation is costing the country. So far there has been spent on repatriation £10,120,408. That includes the amounts advanced for land purposes and for those forestry enterprises to which I have referred. In expending this £10,120,408 the administrative expenses of the Department have been only £378,257. I desire to direct the attention of the great army of economists outside to these figures. I do not say that there are not outside the Department a lot of men who could have done better than those who are in it. But the figures which I have just quoted are to me rather comforting. In addition to an administrative expenditure of £378,257 there has been spent £75,607 in capital non-recurring expenditure - that is to say, on offices which have been purchased. A further sum of £22,000 was a refund of the expenses of the old Board of Trustees, and £4,000 odd was spent in preliminary expenses prior to the passing of the principal Act. I do not regard these as fairly chargeable against administration, the figures for which I have already stated. The Department has spent in’ the- name of repatriation an amount in excess of £10,000,000 at a cost of £378,257.
– What proportion of that £10,000,000 may reasonably be considered an asset to the Commonwealth ?
– I cannot offhand tell the honorable senator to a penny. What is in Senator Pratten’s mind is, “ How much has been granted by way of gift, and how much by way of loan?” I am glad to be able to assure honorable senators that a very large proportion of the money expended has been granted by way of loan. The total sum advanced to the States has been by way of loan, as is also a good deal of the money which we are paying out to the soldiers. In view of what I have stated I do not think that Australia in its repatriation efforts need fear comparison with any other country. When I look round and see what is being done elsewhere I find that Australia is doing more for her unemployed soldiers - in the way of finding employment for them - than is any other country. This is the only country which has made a systematic effort to restore men, except they are invalids or cripples, to civilian life. We have done infinitely more in the matter of vocational training than has any other country. All other countries have limited their efforts in this direction to the training of returned soldiers who. are cripples. Then, again, I am not aware of any country in the world which has organized a medical service such as we have. Under that organization, no matter in what district a returned soldier may be, he has the assistance of a duly qualified medical man. Most certainly no other country has attempted to bestow upon its soldiers the benefits which are contemplated under our War Service Homes Act. These aTe not little things, and they entitle Australia to a very much better verdict in regard to our efforts than we see recorded from day to day. I am afraid that there is a tendency in this country to belittle that which is Australian, or else we have developed the critical faculty to an alarming extent. For every reference heard in public or private, or seen in the press, that is in any way favorable to the Repatriation Department, there are hundreds of a different character.
– They are getting fewer now.
– But I desire to direct the attention of honorable senators to the basis of my complaint against my critics. Whenever I have referred to this matter it has been said that I resent criticism. I do not. I have been too long in politics to resent criticism or to do other than expect it. But bearing in mind the nature of this work, we had a right to expect that our critics would put not a partial, but the whole, view of what is being done. Have they done that? Look at the comments upon our efforts in the matter of providing our soldiers with employment. Do honorable senators ever see a reference to the thousands of men whom we have placed in employment ? Never. Whenever we read of our vocational training scheme do we see any reference to the scheme itself, to its breadth and its national importance? No. But we find space devoted to the cases of half-a-dozen men whom we have inadvertently trained, or to that of some man who has been kept waiting before being placed in a class. It is not the scheme which is discussed. It has never been discussed by the public journals in Australia. The same remark is applicable to our medical service. Do we ever see in the press any statement of what is being done there? I challenge anybody to bring me a newspaper article devoting any attention to it. Yet I venture to submit that it is important, and that it is creditable to Australia. So I might run through all the items of criticism. That criticism has been based, not upon what we have done, but upon what wehave failed to do, or upon the mistakes that we have made. I do not complain of criticism of our mistakes, but I do say that the balance of the picture should be placed before the people. Even now, if a fair view could be given to the people, they would come to the conclusion that whilst there may still be gaps to be stopped, Australia is making a liberal effort to redeem the promises that were given to the men who fought for u3.
Debate (on motion by Senator Grant) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 19th March (vide page 620), on motion by Senator Lynch -
That the following Address-in-Reply be agreed to: -
To Bis Excellency the Governor-General.
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
. -Reference is made in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech to the close of the war, and the expression of rejoicing contained in that deliverance will find an echo in the breast of every honorable senator. Then His Excellency takes cognisance of the signing of the Peace Treaty and the formation of the League of Nations. He voices the hope that this will infuse into all nations an entirely new spirit, so that they will no longer regard war as a means for the settlement of their disputes. He trusts that they will become possessed of higher ideals and nobler aspirations, and that sentiment, I am sure, will be shared by all members of this Chamber.Whilst Australia is far removed from the scene of conflict, whilst she was always beyond the roar of the guns and the rattle of the musketry, the fact remains that to-day she is feeling very acutely the economic effects of the peace which has succeeded that titanic struggle.We did expect that when war ceased we should in some measure return to normal conditions.
Yet to-day we are feeling the economic pressure much more keenly than we felt it whilst the war was in progress. But when we recollect that millions of men were drawn from industrial avenues to engage in the work of destruction, when we reflect that factories which had been devoted to the manufacture of clothing for the ordinary citizen and artisan were for years employed solely for the manufacture of clothing for the soldiers in the field, and when we remember that fields were left untilled, orchards neglected, and mines idle, we can quite understand that sooner or later, even in the most distant parts of the world, the effects of this dislocation would be severely felt. It is these factors which have produced a scarcity in the matter of clothing and in some of the very minute commodities which enter so closely into our daily life.
The lessened production throughout the world to-day is responsible for the present high cost of living. One cannot hut be surprised when he finds that the prices of articles in common use have been increased so much as they have. Last week I had occasion to buy an article which I was accustomed some time ago to obtain for about 7d., and I was charged ls. 9d. for it. Only this week, I purchased an article which, before the war, could be obtained for ls. 9d., and the price to-day is 8s. I could go to a factory not very far from this building where the same article is being made in Australia. The increase in price is explained onlyby the scarcity of production elsewhere. It would appear that if an article is dear in England it must be dear here also. Those who charge the increased prices are described as profiteers, but I venture to say that quite a number who glibly make use of the word have never stopped to consider the conditions which are responsible for the present high cost of living. They overlook the fact that, in time of peace as well as during and after the war, whenever there is a scarcity of any particular article, the price, as a matter of course, is increased. All economic writers are agreed that a scarcity of supply naturally increases the value of any article. I hold no brief for the profiteer, but I am satisfied that the present high prices are due to lessened production, and to the consequent scarcity of the articles which people require.When in the past the price of rice was increased, it was admitted without question to be due to the fact that small crops were harvested, in the lands in which rice was grown. When we imported sugar, and the price rose, it was understood that the increase was due naturally enough to the fact that there had not been a good crop. The same reason will account for the increase in the price of 101 different articles which people have to purchase to-day, but certain persons have come to the conclusion that the individual responsible is the profiteer. We should look into the condition of affairs in Europe to-day. Many -millions of people in middle Europe are much nearer to the starvation’ line than are the people of Australia. -It is very difficult for us to realize the depth of poverty and the dearth of employment in Europe at the present time. We can scarcely understand how the channels of trade have been blocked and the sources of supply cut off from those people. It is a reflex action of those conditions that is affecting us injuriously in Australia.
We foolishly thought that when the war drum throbbed no longer, and the battle flag was furled, things would be just as they were in this fair land of ours. We were warned to be thrifty and careful. We were told that such conditions as are now complained of must, c* necessity arise, but we heeded not the warning. They have come upon us, and they are attributed to an entirely wrong source. There must, however, be a remedy for the state of things of which people complain. There is a remedy, but it is that which has been spurned again and again, and which has been referred to by some .persons in terms of the greatest scorn. The only remedy is to produce more of those things which the people require. The warning to which T have referred was necessary at the time it was given, and is just as necessary to-day. I venture to say that the people of Australia will recognise that our social and economic salvation depend upon increased production. It is only by supplying our needs ourselves that we can overcome the difficulties with which we are at present confronted. Prom the evidence which is being secured by the Basic
Wage Commission and the Pair Prices Commission, it is clearly shown that many of the things which we require can be made in Australia more cheaply and oi better quality than those which we import. There is no reason why we should not manufacture in Australia many of the articles required to meet our local needs and should not also export rather than import them. We have wool in Australia, and all that we need are factories for its manufacture into cloth. There is no reason why we should not produce in Australia sufficient cloth to clothe the whole of our people. With industry we can do that, and may become competitors in the markets of the world at an advantage, because we should be able to save freight both ways. It may be said that there are difficulties in the way, but there are difficulties in the way of every enterprise. If it were possible for us to obtain all that we need in life without working, there would be very few persons tired at the close of the day. We may derive benefit from the effort to overcome our difficulties. The man who surmounts a difficulty is a better man than he who will not attempt to do so, and, in the same way, the nation that faces difficulties and surmounts them must take a higher stand amongst the other nations of the world. Hitherto Australians have not been afraid of difficulties, nor have they lacked initiative in overcoming them. We have at the present time less cause for alarm than nave the people in many other parts of the world. I have only to refer honorable members to what is taking place in Europe at the present time. We can scarcely conceive the extent of the scarcity of food supplies and the stagnation of industries in Russia to-day. Middle Europe and Great Britain drew largely upon that country for their supplies of cereals, but to-day Russia is scarcely producing necessary food for her own people. The people of that country are instead listening to the counsels of blind leaders of the blind, and are following them to inevitable destruction.
The only remedy for the state of affair? universally complained of is that the people of the world shall recognise that the inhabitants of one country cannot stand apart as units, but are parts of a great whole. No one part can be injured without the other parts having to share the suffering. In the same way, if one nation prospers, others will prosper with it. If we in Australia can overcome our difficulties - and I think -we can do so - the world as a whole will be the better for the efforts we put forth.
Much has recently been said of the high cost of living in various countries, and we have been told that Queensland is an exceeding good place to live_ in. I believe that it is, but there are times when perhaps it is not the best place to live in. I wish to quote a few figures from the Federal Statistical reports covering the period between July, 1914, and July, 1919. I find that during that period in Australia the cost of living rose by 47 per cent. In the United Kingdom in the same period it rose 120 per cent., in the United States 75 per cent., m Canada 84 per cent., in New Zealand 42 per cent., in South Africa 34 per cent., and in Sweden 220 per cent. It would appear, from these figures, that, with the exception of South Africa and New Zealand, Australia is the cheapest place in the world to live in at the present time. Honorable senators may better understand the position if I compare the prices of particular articles. I take tea, for instance, and I find that whilst the price was from ls. 5d. to ls. lid. per lb. in England in 1914, it had risen to from 2s. 6d. to 3s. 9d. per lb. in 1919. Butter in 1914 was ls. 2d., and in 1919 2s. 6d. Increases in Australia are rather seasonal than due to the effect of the war, but in England the advance in prices may be traced to the changed economic conditions. Australia occupies about third place among the cheapest countries of the world to live in, South Africa and New Zealand being better in this respect; but much depends on where a person lives in Australia. For instance, the increase in the cost of living in Queensland from 1914 to 1919 was 62.3 per cent., whereas in New South Wales it was 43 per cent., in’ Victoria 43.8 per cent., in Tasmania 42.2 per cent., Western Australia 37.5 per cent., and South Australia 36 per cent. On these figures South Australia is the cheapest State in the Commonwealth at the present time. I mention these percentage increases because an attempt has been made to prove that the heavy increase in Queensland was due to the operations of tie War Precautions Act, which, I remind honorable senators, must have affected all the States in the same manner.
I should like to refer briefly to the subject mentioned by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) this afternoon. There are people who think that we -are treating our soldiers too liberally, and, apparently, they begrudge what our men are receiving, but it must not be forgotten that our soldiers are part of the Australian people, and as they sacrificed much for us in the recent war, they are entitled to every consider ation now, because we owe to them all of the freedom which we enjoy.
Mention is made in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech of a proposal to extend the operations of the Commonwealth Bank. At present it is almost impossible to say just how much value this institution has been to Australia in connexion with the floating of war loans, and its influence in stabilizing credit. One has only to remember the extraordinary and grave difficulties during the last banking crisis to. appreciate the steadying influence of the Commonwealth Bank in the dangerous years through which we have passed. I am glad to know that provision is to be made to extend its usefulness, because the Bank must necessarily play an important part in the solution of our many post-war. problems. I am satisfied that its future will be as brilliant as its past has been. We all know how the German banking system stood behind the industries of that country, enabling those engaged in business concerns to perfect their organizations until they became the envy of the whole world. There is nothing wrong about that phase of German organization, and Australia might well follow her example. I do not believe that because’ a certain scheme originates in Germany it is necessarily bad. I only condemn that which I know to be evil, and if we can profit by Germany’s experience we would be wise to do so. As a producer of raw materials, Australia occupies an important place in the world’s commercial system, but we should strive to extend our secondary industries, and in this way take our place among the great nations of the world. Only by this means can we hope to have a large increase in population and to defend Australia. The proposal in the Governor-General’s Speech, therefore, should commend itself to all rightthinking people. Now is the time to do what we can to attract population from overseas, so that in the near future Australia’s position will be assured.
Although, as the result of the titanic struggle in which we were engaged, a huge war debt of about £400,000,000 is now hanging over us, we were so far removed from the scene of conflict that by comparison ‘with, the people of Europe we have little cause for despondency. We were, too, spared much of the suffering endured by those nearer the theatre of war. It is difficult to see how this world’s war debt will be met. Will the amount be wiped out entirely ? Some such means as that must be adopted or the various nations will be staggering under an incubus that will ultimately crush the people. In Australia we have a fair land and better opportunities than elsewhere. I sincerely hope, therefore, that we shall soon attract an increase of population, and that, as a result, the Commonwealth will produce not only enough for herself, ‘but be able to contribute appreciably, not only in primary products, but in manufactured articles, to the needs of the world.
– I was quite prepared to. allow this debate to close last week without intervening, but as it has been prolonged and as my opportunities of addressing the Senate are limited, I propose to say a few words. Naturally we all desire to refer to the recent election, and I suppose those who were successful candidates regard the system under which it was conducted as not altogether unsatisfactory, while those who were defeated have very little to say in its favour. I do not think anyone can give unqualified praise to the system of preferential voting which obtained at the last elections. The number of informal votes is quite appalling, extending, I believe, to up to 10 per cent. It will be interesting to compare the results with the New South Wales elections, under the ‘ proportional system,- as the facilities for voters and their means of applying the system were much the same in both cases, particularly in view of the fact that in both the systems were adopted for the first time. We have had the proportional system in Tasmania for a number of years, and I believe the number of informal votes has not been greater than under the ordinary system. It is somewhat early to comment on the figures in the recent New South Wales election, but I saw a published statement to the effect that the number of informal votes would be about 30,000, and that represents from 3 per “cent, to 4 per cent, on the number of votes in New South Wales, which, of course, is the largest State in the Commonwealth, which has a population of approximately 1,000,000 voters. Con sidering that the Commonwealth system of preferential voting and the New South Wales system of proportional voting were both being tried for the first time, it must be admitted that the electors can grasp and apply the proportional system and carry it out without anything like the number of informalities which occurred under the preferential system. I notice, also, that in January last the municipal elections in Ireland were conducted for the first time under the proportional system, and from the figures I have perused, it would appear that the informal votes did not amount to more than 2 per cent. Whether that is a tribute to the intelligence of the Irish voters in particular, or whether it indicates that the proportional system is much easier to grasp, I cannot say.
In the State I represent, I happened to be the third candidate on the alphabetical list, and as Senator Millen and others have stated, it has been noticed that in nearly every case, in four out of six of the States, the voting generally was recorded alphabetically on party lines. If a candidate happened to be at the bottom of his particular group he would be the first to be excluded. Although I was third on the list I came second in the primary votes. My colleague, Mr. Grealey, who was before me alphabetically, secured most of the primary votes, but he did not succeed in getting within the charmed circle, and his votes were never distributed. Mr. Lundie and I were not credited with more than 25 per cent, of the votes we could reasonably have expected to have received if the party ticket was followed. The position is more clearly emphasized in the State of Queensland, where Senator Ferricks topped the list with over 100,000 votes, while Senator Maughan and Mr. Turley, who would in all probability have received a similar number, or moreswere at the bottom. I do not contend, so far as South Australia is concerned, that under any other system the result would have been different. As I stated at the declaration of the poll,- there_ might be many reasons for the rejection of myself and colleagues, and .that it was apparent the majority of the electors of South Australia was against us whatever the system of voting was. I believe that the result would have been similar unless the election had been conducted under the proportional system, when a Labour representative would have received considerably more than the quota, and the Labour party entitled to one seat.
The election in South Australia was not fought mainly on the issues before the country or on the policy of the Government, but on the policy of the Queensland Government and the conditions obtaining in that State. I think that was the practice adopted in nearly all the States, as an endeavour was made by the Government and their supporters to refer to alleged mismanagement in Queensland in a desire to divert attention from their own extravagance and mismanagement. The statements concerning Queensland were grossly distorted, and were absolutely without foundation. I am not surprised that our opponents should attack a Labour Government wherever it exists, because it has always been their practice to attribute every possible fault to Labour Administrations, but I am surprised that our old Labour friends, who were with us when we were a united party, should join in this antagonism.
– Have not Labour supporters renounced us for the last three or four years? The Labour party, after throwing us out, has been kicking us round the globe ever since.
– I do not desire to go back and discuss those debatable points. Are not the Labour principles that we stood for the same to-day as they were five or six years ago ?
– Not at all. The. Labour party is now opposing the Arbitration Court and supporting direct action.
– “When a Labour Government was elected in Queensland, in 1915, we were a united party, and from all parts of Australia the representatives of industrial organizations sent congratulations on the triumph of Labour. That Government has been in power for five years. What has been the cry of those who were with us, and who are now opposing us? Have we departed from the principles on which that Government was elected?
– In what way?
– In many ways.
– The Labour members in Queensland have adhered to their principles and have carried them into effect so far as they were able, although they have ‘ been hampered by that incubus that the Labour party has always been fighting, the Legislative Council.
– You departed from Labour principles at the outbreak of war.
– Now we are getting bacl? to the same old question. Does the honorable senator suggest that conscription was one of the principles of Labour ?
– The Labour party made it one.
– It was a sound Labour principle.
– That was the point on which there was a division, and . the present Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said that he would never be a party to sending men across the sea against their wish. He drew up the Labour manifesto on which we went to the electors, and said that he wrote every line. But eighteen months after that manifesto had been prepared he adopted an entirely different attitude.
– The then Leader of the party to which the honorable senator belongs (Mr. Fisher) said that he would be prepared to send the last man and the last shilling.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that any one would take that statement literally? We all know it was a figure of speech.
– The honorable senator did not support recruiting’ quite apart from compulsion.
– Will the honorable senator name any British Dominion that has done half as well as Australia has done?
– The honorable senator opposed recruiting, and did not go on the public platform.
– That is not true. As a member of the Labour party I was in favour of voluntary enlistment, . and up to the armistice, when Colonel Butler was endeavouring to raise 500 men, I was on. the platform with him in support of the voluntary system.
There was not anything in that that was contrary to Labour principles.
– Was compulsory training in accordance with the principles of the Labour party?
– Then what did the honorable senator oppose?
– I am opposed to compulsory service outside Australia.
– Compulsory training was one of the planks of the Labour platform, and it still is.
– Compulsory training for service in Australia.
– I can assure the honorable senator that he is entirely wrong, as there was no restriction or qualification.
– Compulsory training for service within the Commonwealth was a plank of the Labour party’s platform, and when an attempt was made to extend such a provision for service overseas, we resisted it. We said that we were in favour of compulsory training for the defence of Australia, but we were totally opposed to compulsory service overseas.
– If the honorable senator will refer to the fifth plank of the Labour party’s platform, he will find that he is entirely wrong.
– How does the honorable senator account for the Prime Minister saying that he would not be a party to sending men for service outside the Commonwealth.
– That also should not be taken literally.
– The statement of Mr. Fisher, when Prime Minister, could not possibly have been given effect to, as we could not go on until the last man and the last shilling had left the Commonwealth. We know that the last shilling was not taken, although many attempts were made to secure the last man.
– Compulsory service is still a plank of the Labour party’s platform.
– And the Labour party placed it on the statute book.
– And you have now departed from it.
– Never. When one considers the sacrifices that Australia has made, both of men and of money, surely it will not be said that we have not contributed our share. Oan honorable senators deny it?
– I am not ashamed, but proud of it.
– Is it not more creditable to have done so much voluntarily instead of by compulsion?
– Yes, if every one did his share.
-I do not intend to be drawn further into this question at this juncture. I was dealing with the position in Queensland, and saying that in 1915. when the Labour Government was elected, it received the congratulations of many honorable senators who are now denouncing it.
The best comment upon the programme and policy of the Labour party is the verdict of the people to whom it has been applied. In 1918, the Labour Government, after three years in office, appealed to the people of Queensland, who ought to have known something about the way they had been governed under that Administration, with the result that they were returned by a majority of two to one. They are now carrying out another plank of the Labour policy for which we have stood for years, and which we have always recognised as involving the greatest fight in front of us. That is the question of dealing with the Legislative Councils, which for long years have blocked progressive measures in every State in Australia. The Queensland Government took effective steps to deal with their Legislative Council, just as Mr. Asquith did to restrict the power of the House of Lords when he brought in the Veto Bill. The way to deal with a nominee Chamber is to appoint additional members, and in the case of the House of Lords it was only necessary for Mr. Asquith to threaten to do it. When the Queensland Government took that step, which is in accordance with the policy of the Labour party, instead of our Labour friends congratulating them on carrying out the most important plank in the Labour platform, we find them joining in the chorus on the other side, and denouncing Mr. Ryan and the Queensland Government generally. That was for achieving what we had been desirous of doing in every State in which we have been fighting the Labour cause.
– Who fought the Labour cause ?
– The Labour party.
– Not you, though.
– My honorable and spiteful little friend knows that when he and I were in the Legislative Council ot South Australia together there ‘was no Labour proposal or movement that I did not vote with the Labour party for.
– Where were you during the Boer war? You were against that war and against the Labour party.
– Where was I at Waterloo ? So far as regards my first entry into the public life of South Australia, I was the first wage-earner that ever entered the Legislative Council of that State.
– You were not a wage-earner.
– I was.
– You were never a member of a trades union.
– I earned my salary as a hired labourer when I entered that Chamber. Surely every one will admit that Mr. Ryan’s career in Australia has been an honorable one, and that he is a man of high character and great ability-.
– Who is saying anything different?
– He has been abused, and some of the scurrilous stuff thrown at him was quoted in this chamber only the other day. As an Australian born and bred, I am proud of the achievements of Australians who have risen to distinction, and who have shown, both here and on the other side of the world, that they can hold their own with the best the world can produce. I can instance Mr. Deakin, Mr. Kingston, Mr. Watt, Mr. Ryan, and a number more. We, as Australians, ought to be proud of the distinctions achieved by those men, and the abilities they have displayed. Mr. Ryan’s career has been eminently creditable to the country in which he was born. He has risen to the highest positions in politics, and in the profession which. he adorns. No man in Australia has conducted so many great cases with success in the very highest Courts of the land.
I have seen an audited report, which was supplied to every honorable senator, showing the success of the meat shops, the pastoral enterprises, and seven or eight other undertakings of the Queensland Labour Government. The report shows that these have all been carried on at a profit, and that up to 1919 the net profit on the whole of them was £260,000. We are told that Mr. Ryan, when Premier, ran up a deficit of £700,000 odd. One would think, from the way that statement was paraded during the elections, that that was the only deficit that occurred in Australia during that period. The fact is that every State has had deficits, and that of Queensland is about the smallest of the lot. In South Australia, a State with not much more than half the population of Queensland, there has been deficit after deficit in the same period, yet we hear all about the Queensland deficit, and nothing about .the others. One would think it was unique. Then we are told that the Queensland railways have been conducted at a loss; but can any one point to State railways anywhere in Australia that showed * profit during the war? Why should this particular odium be cast on Queensland because the railways and the State finances have shown a deficit, when the same thing has been occurring in a much more exaggerated form in the other States? Apparently, the only reason is that the Government in power in Queensland was a Labour Government, and “ any stick is good enough to beat a dog with.”
I am afraid that the pious hope expressed’ in the Governor-General’s Speech, for “the early decision of the United States of America to share in the responsibilities of the League of Nations,” is not likely to be realized, judging by what we have read in the last few days. I believe that when President Wilson formulated his fourteen points upon high international ideals,- he had the sympathy of the American people. When he departed’ from those points and those ideals, and allowed many provisions directly contrary to them to be introduced into the Peace Treaty, he lost their sympathy, and, consequently, has not been able to secure the ratification of the Treaty. He, of course, had no authority under the American Constitution to commit the nation to agreement with the Treaty. The Constitution provides that every Treaty must be agreed to by the Senate, which, therefore, is only exercising its constitutional powers in making certain reservations in this case. Article 10 of the Peace Treaty seems to be the bone of contention. I believe a good deal of the opposition of the American Senate has been occasioned by the hypocrisy of the present Tory Coalition Government in England’, which, while professing to be in favour of the principle of selfdetermination, has rigorously repressed it in every part of the British. Dominions where an attempt has been made to assert it. I refer particularly to Egypt, Ireland, and India. To profess agreement with the principle of selfdetermination, and then in practice to abrogate that principle, is not a course of conduct likely to command respect from other nations.
I notice in the Speech the statement that the question of defence is receiving earnest attention. We have been waiting for a long time to hear something definite from the Government about their defence policy, particularly with regard to naval defence. Lord Jellicoe’s report upon naval problems in the Pacific was completed many months back. We in the Senate had to wait several months before it was produced, and it was not made public in Australia until it had been made public in New Zealand. Now that the Government have had it before them for so long a period, we are anxiously waiting to know what they intend to do with it. We are all interested in this question as an Empire, and are therefore interested in noting what the other Dominions are doing. I observed in to-day’s newspapers the following significant telegram : -
The Canadian Government Caucus has decided by an overwhelming majority to refuse to accept the plans of Admiral Viscount Jellicoe for the formation of a Canadian Navy. The Government is offering for sale the warships’ (two cruisers) which it now has, and is closing the Esquimault (British Columbia) Naval Base. The offer of gift warships from Great Britain has been refused.
That offer, I find, was to give a complete unit, consisting of cruisers, submarines, and patrol boats, valued at £3,300,000, on condition that the upkeep should be borne by the Canadian Government. Lord Jellicoe recommended that Canada should spend £1,160,000 on a naval programme in the first year, of which £160,000 would be used for new ships, and £1,000,000 for the maintenance of the fleet and tha erection of naval defences. The Canadian Government is not only absolutely -turning down the offer of a miniature fleet, but also refuses to accept Lord Jellicoe’s proposal for expenditure on* naval defence, and is disposing of some of its own battleships, thus going back altogether to a peace footing. Under Lord Jellicoe’s recommendations, Australia is expected to contribute £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 towards the cost of the Pacific Fleet, or about four times as much as Canada was asked to pay, and it will be very interesting to note what the proposals of the Australian Government are on the subject. The country is, I think, altogether opposed to anything in the nature of lavish military or naval defence schemes at the present juncture. The main reason is that we are at the end of a great war, which, we were told, was to end all war and make the world safe for Democracy. Germany, the great menace to the peace of the world, is down and out, and we may well ask, “Who is there to fight? What is the reason for continuing to build huge fleets and naval bases, and manufacturing armaments, as if some great war was still impending?” Another reason is that the question of naval defence is in the melting-pot. It is impossible to foresee the conditions of the next war, if there should be another in our time. Some say that battleships are fit only for the scrap heap, and among those who subscribe to that doctrine is Admiral Fisher, one of the greatest naval authorities. It is, at any rate, impossible to say what is the best means to take for naval defence in the future, and it behoves us, before entering into any extensive military or naval schemes, to go slow, at any rate until we know more definitely what the real needs of the future are.
I now desire to say a word or two in regard tq the Commonwealth ‘Bank. When I read in the Governor-General’s Speech that provision is to be made to extend the functions of this institution, I thought that probably some comprehensive scheme was to be placed before us with a view to expanding its usefulness to the people. We all recollect that when the Fisher Government introduced the Bill authorizing the establishment of the
Commonwealth.’ Bank, a great outcry was raised against it in financial and capitalistic circles. It was predicted that the , Bank would ruin the country, that it would drive capital out of it, and that no good whatever would result from its creation. Now that the institution has proved a great success, it seems to me that the policy of our private banks is to regard it from quite another stand-point. Having failed to prevent its establishment, their policy is to annex it and bring it into the scheme of the associated banks, instead of allowing it to be used for the benefit of the people as a whole. In short, it is to be appropriated by the capitalistic interests. These remarks are prompted by the policy of the Commonwealth Bank in regard to its Savings Bank Branch. I know that the management of the institution is not directly under the control of the Government, and that the Governor of it possesses very wide powers. But the policy of the Bank in regard to its Savings Bank depositors certainly requires investigation. We all know that during the war the rate of interest paid by our various financial institutions advanced considerably. Every other Saings Bank in the community is paying to its depositors at the rate of 3j or 4 per cent. In South Australia the State Savings Bank is paying 4 per cent. But the Commonwealth Bank, which is the most profitable institution in Australia - its profits amounting to nearly £1,000,000 a year - is robbing - and I- use that term advisedly - its poorest depositors of from £ per cent, to 1 per cent. It is only paying them a miserable 3 per cent, by way of interest. Why should that be so?
– Their security is better.
– It is not a matter of security. Nearly all the Savings Banks in Australia are guaranteed by the State Governments, hence nobody doubts their security. The reason for this low rate of interest was,. I believe, stated by the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) to a conference of State Premiers not long ago. He affirmed that the Commonwealth ‘ Bank should not compete with the States Savings Banks. He made it appear that the policy of this institution was to discourage people from depositing their savings in the Commonwealth Savings Bank in order that they might be obliged to place them in the
States Savings Banks. Personally, I entertain only the kindliest feelings towards the State institutions. For many years I was one of the trustees of the South Australian Savings Bank, a most excellent institution, which is managed in a very efficient way - as, indeed, are all the Savings Banks throughout Australia. But if we are to have a Commonwealth Savings Bank in addition to the States Savings Banks, most certainly they should be placed on an equal footing. People would then be at liberty to choose between them. But no attempt should be made, to penalize depositors in the Commonwealth Savings Bank to the extent of £ per cent, or 1 per cent. I have a vivid recollection of what, happened when the Fisher Government proposed the amalgamation of the States Savings Banks with the Commonwealth Savings Bank, with the idea of establishing one national institution, which could be managed economically. Upon that occasion Mr. Fisher made a most generous proposal. He proposed that the States should retain the use of the deposits in their own .Savings Banks, and that after the amalgamation with the ‘Commonwealth Savings Bank the new business should be distributed in the proportion of 75 per cent, and 25 per cent, respectively. That proposal, because it emanated from a Labour Government, was anathema to our opponents, and was promptly denounced as an attempt to rob the States. I am, however, pleased to know that Tasmania has amalgamated her State Savings Bank with the Commonwealth Savings Bank, and I understand that Queensland is about to follow her example. In those States there will thus be only one bank to run the whole business. I ‘hope that similar action will ‘be taken by the other four States so that we shall have one national institution - the people’s bank - in which savings may be deposited under the control of the Central Government. Of course, I may be told that as millions of pounds are at the disposal of the State Savings Banks there is room for more than one institution. No doubt there is. But if we are to have only one Savings Bank - and I think there is much to be said in favour of the adoption of that course - it may be urged that the States should conduct it. My own view is that the authority which controls the post offices through which a lot of Savings Bank work is transacted, is the best fitted to deal with that class of business. The Commonwealth Bank has been one of the greatest financial successes in the history of the world. It started practically without capital, and yet to-day is a very flourishing institution. It enabled us in a time of unprecedented stress to shoulder an exceedingly heavy burden.”
In conclusion, I merely wish to say that I am neither glad nor sorry that the Referendum proposals of the Government were defeated at the recent elections. Had they been carried they were so hampered with restrictions that they would have been of very little use. Doubtless it was those restrictions which prevented the proposals from receiving the assent of the electors.
– That is a very consistent statement for a Labour man who fought for those proposals several times previously.
– Had the proposals submitted at the recent elections been similar to those which I supported on two previous occasions they would have had my strong advocacy. But they were only the merest skeleton-
– For all practical purposes the proposals were identical.
– They were worth neither support nor opposition. They were contemptible. In the first place the Prime Minister submitted his proposals to a Conference of State Premiers, who cut out nearly all that was of value in them. Subsequently they were submitted to a jury of lawyers, who made another cut at them. Then the remnants were presented to the people, who turned them down. Now it is proposed that a. Convention shall be called for the purpose of revising our. Constitution. An endeavour has been made to ascertain how that Convention will be constituted. The Governor-General’s Speech makes it appear that it will consist of some representatives elected by the people, and of others who will be elected by Parliament. I hope that we shall not go back upon the great principle upon which our Constitution is founded. That Constitution was framed by a Convention elected by the whole of the people upon a democratic basis. Having -made such a good start, if, after twenty years’ experience of our
Constitution, we go back to a Convention which is not entirely elected by the people, we shall be taking a retrograde step, and one which will not result in any good.
– In the Governor-General’s Opening Speech the following paragraph appears: -
The Government policy is, at the earliest moment, to divest itself of the present Pools and controls, and thus permit the trade of the Commonwealth to revert to non-governmental channels, while affording the primary producers every possible assistance in extending the co-operative organization of their important interests.
With that paragraph I am in entire accord. During the war it may have been necessary in the best interests of the Commonwealth to appoint Boards and Commissions to generally control the business of this country. But seeing that the Peace Treaty was finally ratified on the 10th January last, the Government should immediately divest itself of the remnants of the control which it exercised during the war. I am not at all clear as to what is the position in regard to our wool business. The Wool Committee is composed mainly of men who either have been or still are actively engaged in that business. Tet we find that they are prepared to place the whole of the wool clip of Australia into a pool and to accept ls. 3-jjd. per lb. for it. The same wool when disposed of in ‘Great Britain has been sold at varying prices. The average has, perhaps, been about 5s. per lb., but some of the wool has been sold at as high as 10s. and lis. per lb. It appears to me that there must be more behind thi3 business than is evident on the surface. During the recent election in New South Wales, candidates on the Labour side stood for complete cessation of Go,vernment control in the wool industry, and were returned in almost every case. This indicates that t”he Government, in. seeking to continue the control of the. wool business, are not representing the. wool-growers of Australia. I shall be’ glad to see Government control of the sale of wool brought to an end, and open wool sales resumed in Sydney and elsewhere in Australia.
I find that the Government propose to. abandon the powers, which they secured with the sanction of Parliament, and. exercised sometimes very ruthlessly, under the War Precautions Act. We should have an assurance that their powers under that measure will be completely abandoned. The war is now a thing of the past, and, therefore, there does not appear to be any legitimate reason for continuing the operation of the Act. I welcome the paragraph in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech as to the intention of the Government at an early date to divest themselves of these powers.
There is another paragraph, of the Speech to which I should like to refer. I suppose that a similar statement has been made in previous speeches of the kind. It refers to the establishment of the Federal Capital at Canberra. We all know that one of the reasons which induced a considerable number of people to consent to Federation is the fact that it was proposed to establish the Capital of Australia in New South Wales at a site to be selected. The site ultimately selected was at Canberra, but for one reason or another, although many hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent there, something always occurs to prevent the fulfilment of the Federal compact. Had not the war occurred, no doubt the establishment of the Capital would have been accelerated, but it presented a splendid opportunity to excuse the Governmnent from doing anything at Canberra. The war is now over, but I sup-» pose that we shall presently be told that, until the whole of our war loans are liquidated, it will be too early to talk of the transfer of the Seat of the Government of the Commonwealth to Canberra. I hope that nothing of the kind will be said. The compact made between the various States should- be carried out. I remind honorable senators that the compact made to connect the eastern portion of Australia with Western Australia has been fulfilled at a cost to the Commonwealth of something like £250,000 a year. Strenuous efforts have been made at various times to secure the construction of a line from Oodnadatta to the Katherine River, and, as things are shaping, that line may be constructed, though it will involve a heavy annual loss to the Commonwealth. I do not favour a proposal of that kind. I protest against the continuous efforts of Federal Govern- ments since Federation was accomplished to postpone the transference of the Seat of Government to Canberra. We are now informed that a Commission is to be appointed for the purpose of advising the Government as to the method of procedure. We are told in the Opening Speech -
Now that the war is over, steps will be taken to further the plan for the establishment of the Federal Capital. It is proposed to appoint a Commission to report on the stages to be followed, and the methods to be employed to develop the resources of the Federal Territory and reduce the financial burden upon the Commonwealth.
The Government have for years had before them all the information that could possibly be collected by any Commission. There is, therefore, no justification whatever for the proposed new Commission. What the Government should do is to invite plans and specifications for Parliament House at Canberra. They should then accept a suitable design and go on with the establishment of the Federal Capital there. The proposal to appoint another Commission to deal with the matter is merely a subterfuge to still further postpone the transfer of the Seat of Government to Canberra. I hope that the construction of the Federal Capital will not be delayed any longer than is absolutely necessary.
Some time ago, considerable trouble occurred in the Northern Territory between the Administrator and the population there. Efforts were made in this Chamber by members of the Opposition to secure for the people there a measure of self-government, but, unfortunately, the Government at the time were not prepared to listen to any representations from- this side. The result was that the Ordinances ultimately adopted practically gave to the Minister full control in the Northern Territory. I notice with some satisfaction that it is now proposed to grant some degree of representation to the people of the Federal Territories. I suppose that it is intended to apply that principle to residents of Papua, possibly of some of the Pacific Islands, the Federal Capital Territory, and also of the Northern Territory. I do not imagine for a moment that the Government will give the same representation to the 3,000 or 4,000 people who are at present in the Northern Territory that is enjoyed by the whole of the people in Victoria, but what is proposed is a step in the right direction, which should not be longer delayed.
Sitting suspended from 6.S0 to 8 p.m.
– I view with some concern the intention of the Government, as outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech, to favorably support a scheme of immigration. In the absence of any details it is impossible to say what the scheme will be; but .1 wish to place on record my entire disapproval of any Commonwealth funds being used for the purpose of bringing more people to this country until those who are already here are fully employed, and particularly until land is made available for those who desire to use it. . “We have had experience already of the actions of previous Governments in bringing people to Australia, not to benefit the immigrants so much as to flood an already overstocked labour market; and I find it difficult to remove the suspicion that this is the purpose which the Government have in view. If the conditions are made satisfactory in Australia, if employment is obtainable and wages are high, the best class of people will be induced to come here without any Government aid; and in view of the fact that by far the largest proportion of the wealth is produced by the workers, it is unfair to use public money to bring more competitors to Australia. In the Age of to-day there appeared the statement that it was impossible to secure housing accommodation in Melbourne, and therefore if more people are introduced to this country the situation will become more acute.
– Not if the people who come here were builders.
– If they were builders, the situation might not be quite so bad; but we have no assurance that they will be builders. Governments, as a rule, prefer to bring out unskilled labourers.
– And are they not required?
– If, as I have already ‘said, the conditions are made satisfactory, the people will come here quickly enough. In the press the other day I noticed that for six blocks of land in the western portion of New South Wales there were no less than 560 applications, and yet it is suggested that more people should be brought to Australia at the public expense, to become competitors, I presume, for any blocks of land that may become available. It will be quite time enough to spend money in this direction when the State Governments open up land. Until this is done I shall not support any proposal to spend public money on immigration. The introduction of a few thousand more people to Melbourne would immensely increase” the existing difficulties in regard to housing accommodation.
– Did you think of this before you left Scotland to come out and compete with others here?
– It never occurred to me that I would be competing with the workers of this country. I came out here because the conditions were better than in Great Britain. I have no objection to people coming to Australia at all, providing they are white people, but I object to any proposal for the introduction of immigrants to compete in the local labour market. This policy has been condemned unsparingly on other occasions. Very few State Governments, and certainly no Commonwealth Government, have appealed to the people on this issue, and, so far as I am aware, it was not mentioned during the recent campaign. I am pretty sure that if a vote were taken on this question, the people would unanimously object to it.
Statements have been made with regard to the treatment meted out to our returned soldiers, but I see no reference’ in the Governor-General’s Speech to those who, for some reason or other, incurred the displeasure of the military authorities, and are now serving terms of imprisonment in gaol. Some of these men are under sentence of fifteen years’ imprisonment, and I know that their wives and families are in desperate straits because the support they received from the Government is inadequate. Now that the war is over, and we have returned to somewhat normal conditions, sentences imposed on soldiers during the war period should be reviewed at the earliest possible moment with a view to a substantial reduction being made.
– All military prisoners were released after the signing of the armistice. If any man is undergoing imprisonment at present, it must be for some criminal offence. All sentences are reviewed as soon” as the men land.
– I know the wife of one man who is, I think, serving fifteen years in Little Bay gaol. She is in difficulties.
I regret there is -no mention in the Governor-General’s Speech of the proposal to unify the railway gauges of the Commonwealth. This matter should not be overlooked,, as if delayed any longer, it will become a much more costly undertaking. A few years ago the estimate for the unification of the gauges was, I think, about £56,000,000. Before long, it will be at least £100,000,000. This problem ought to be tackled by the Government at once. The gauges of all main lines should be unified, and branch lines could afterwards be dealt with in the same way. This work would “provide employment for a considerable number of returned soldiers. I dare say the Government would give preference on hard jobs like this, though they do not give pre’ference in connexion with the easier jobs.
Reference is made- in the Speech to a proposal to extend the usefulness of the Commonwealth Bank. As one of those who warmly supported the establishment of that institution, and who thoroughly believes in it, I think that branches of the Bank should be established in every large centre of population. If this is not done, people will get the impression that the Bank is not developing its business satisfactorily, and that it is afraid to compete with the private banks. In some phases of Government activity, such as the telegraph and telephone services, competition by private institutions is forbidden. I do not say that, at present, we should prevent competition by private banks, but the facilities of the Commonwealth Bank ought to be extended in every possible direction, and a branch established in every large town.
The long-promised Tariff is to be introduced at a very early date, and, from all we can hear, it is to do wonders.
– It will lower the cost of living.
– I think it will increase it.
– Not a Protective Tariff.
– I think so. I do not think it will make much difference, but T have no very great hopes in that direction. I have my own opinion on the effect of the Tariff, and consider any additional imposts will be made with the object of getting more revenue through the Customs House, and not with the idea of preventing the importation of foreign-made goods into this country.
There is another matter which is of great importance to many taxpayers. I refer to the fact that the Government intend, according to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, to appoint a Royal Commission to deal with the whole incidence of Commonwealth taxation. If the Commission is appointed, I would like it to be given some indication of the lines on which the Government would desire it to conduct its inquiry, and to point out that the time is opportune to review the whole question of taxation. We have a number of direct and indirect taxes, and the time is ripe for the Government to come to a decision. They should give this Commission, if appointed, an indication as to the line of procedure, and a direction to endeavour to place the burden of taxation upon the shoulders of those who are best able to bear it. I refer to the land-owners of Australia - the’ people who own this country - who should be called upon to pay a little more than at present. I would not be strictly in order during this debate if I were to advocate a straight-out. land tax without any exemptions or graduations.
– The honorable senator, will be quite in order, as he is not restricted in any way during this debate.
– There are some restrictions, I believe, and some observations, which I believe you, Mr. President, would not permit.
– In discussing the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply, the Standing Orders do not restrict the honorable senator in any way, and he has the opportunity of debating and reviewing all matters of public policy.
– I consider that the time is now opportune for the Government, either directly or through the proposed Commission, to evolve a system of taxation distinctly different from that under which we .are now working. In New South Wales, the State which I have still the honour to assist in representing in this Chamber, we have a very excellent method of taxation under a system of local government. There, unlike Victoria, there is no taxation whatever upon improvements. A person in New South Wales, if he desires to invest capital in a factory or in a building of any kind, is not pounced upon by the local authorities and fined for so doing, as all improvements are exempt from taxation. In New South Wales a local tax is imposed without any graduation or progressive rates. There is no tax upon absentees, and it is a flat, even, and understandable rate of 3d. or 4d. in the £1. It does not matterwhether a block of land belongs to a soldier, a widow, or a millionaire, they all pay the same flat rate of so many pence per £1. I consider this a very excellent system of local taxation, which unfortunately has not been adopted by any of the States with the exception of Queensland, which has made a movein that direction.
– It isoptional in Victoria. We have the power here.
– It is quitetrue that Victoria has the power, but it is circumscribed by so many conditions that local government bodies in Victoria have not yet adopted it.
– One or two have, and many others are taking a referendum on the matter.
– They are making some progress. In South Australia they have adopted it to some extent, but, so far as I can learn, nothing has been done in the other States. Such a system should be applied to the Federal arena. I know that a considerable number of taxpayers are apposed to this principle; but what is the alternative ? We shall require enormous sums of money in the future, and it is inevitable that we shall have to float another loan which will probably be more or less compulsory in’ character, when, I hope, those who have not subscribed to previous loans will not be overlooked. The Government will require enormous sums for repatriation and other purposes; but, apparently, they are not going to look to the owners of Australia for this extra revenue, but intend to increase the duties upon imported commodities, and thus make the cost of living higher than it is to-day. The Government have a majority in both Chambers, and, therefore, have the power to proceed in this direction. Here is an opportunity for them to make land available at a cheap price to those who desire it. If we imposed a substantial land tax without graduations or exemptions we would not hear of experiences similar to one which occurred recently in New South Wales, and to which I have just referred, where only six out of 560 applicants were able to secure the land they desired.
Reference has been made to the high cost of living and to the extortionate sums paid in rent, but neither this nor any other Government have taken steps to effectively deal with this problem. If the Commonwealth or any State Government desire to reduce rents several things have to be done. Undoubtedly, the wages paid to the artisans is one important item, and the cost of material is another; but the basis of the whole business is the cost of the home site. So far as I can ascertain, no Government in the whole of Australia, with the exception perhaps of Queensland, has dealt with this matter to any extent. Even the Queensland Government have not gone far enough, as in that State a good deal of land-jobbing has been taking place, particularly in regard to small blocks, where, unfortunately, there is an exemption of £300, which makes the purchaser of a small block pay more than he otherwise would. There is not much hope of the State Governments acting in the matter, and the only opportunity will be for the Federal Parliament to take it in hand. If they are not prepared to act it is futile to expect land to be made available for soldiers at a reasonable price. Is it not disgraceful that a man who left Australia, and who went abroad to fight for this country, on returning and desiring to enter a home of his own, should have to appeal to a local land shark before he has permission to live in Australia? He has in effect to pay for a licence for the right to live in this country, and this is one of the main causes of the high cost of living throughout the Commonwealth. Unless this matter is dealt with people cannot expect - and if they do they will be deceived - to get cheap accommodation. Cheap land is the first essential, and the Government should have the courage to deal with this matter promptly, if for no other purpose than for giving assistance to returned soldiers. A case came under my notice the other day of’ a man who had been abroad fighting for three or four years, and whilst he was away his wife had been living in a tent on a very small block of land he owned. He desired to purchase an additional block near by, but before he could get the right to occupy it - it had never been used, and it was in the same condition as it was in when Captain Cook landed here - he had to pay a licence, or, in other words, had to purchase a block from one of the local land sharks. The New South Wales Government were to blame for that.
– And all other Governments.
– And this Government in particular.
– Including Labour Governments.
-Yes, and including the Government now in office. Every man who returned from abroad has to expend all his deferred pay to purchase a block of land to enable him to live in a home of his own.
– That statement is not correct, because some are given houses, including land, without a deposit.
– And the Government are placing a millstone around their necks for life. The men know it, and the Government know it. If a man is given the right to occupy a home worth £700 he has to defray the cost, including the land, by substantial weekly payments.
– Has not a returned soldier to pay 2s. before he can land in Launceston?
– The payment of 2s. is a trifle compared with the position I am submitting. The trouble is that if a soldier fights for this country, and on his return desires to make a home for himself and family, he finds that the land is owned by somebody else, and before he can acquire a dwelling he has to hand up practically all his deferred pay.
– Is not the Domain public property?
– Even if it is public property, it is not available for people to camp in. There are no vacant blocks available at a reasonable price, but there are many that can be purchased only at a price entirely beyond the reach of the ordinary worker. I presume it is the intention of the Government to increase the revenue by additional imposts on commodities produced in low-wage countries, instead of imposing direct taxation.
– Which are the low wage protected countries?
– All the countries which are manufacturing goods that we bring here.
– The United States of America?
– Yes; that is one of those where the conditions are not so good as they are in this country. In the United States at the present time you have to pay about 7s. or 8 s. for a dinner that you can buy here for ls. ; 8s. 6d. for a lb. of tea, and £3 10s. for a pair of boots. We have not nearly reached that stage yet. It may be quite true that wages are higher there, but when the additional cost of living is placed alongside the wages, it cannot be said thatthe effective wage there is anything like so good as it is here.
There is a remedy lying at hand here waiting tobe applied. Instead of the Government doling out a few shillings or pounds to returned men, often for the purpose of handing them over to land sharks, big or little, the proper way would be by means of legislation to demolish’ those people who are preventing the settlement of returned men on the land. It is an outrage to ask a man who was abroad for years fighting for this country to put up £4 or £5 per foot for a block of land on which to build a home. I am surprised that the returned men do not take the matter up themselves.
– What is the honorable senator’s alternative?
– My alternative is to ask the Government to brine down a measure imposing straight-out land values taxation, to make it unprofitable for people to hold on to vacant blocks, and compel them either to use them or lose by keeping them. The New South Wales Labour party has dealt with this matter in such a way that, if it secures a majority in the State Parliament, as appears very likely, it will be obliged in the near future to bring down a measure of such a character that no man can hold on to vacant blocks of land near centres of papulation without losing heavily by them, and there will be no exemptions and no graduations, or anything of that kind.
– Does that apply to the Federal Labour party?
– The honorable senator was at one time in the ranks of the Federal Labour party, but, unfortunately, he did .not give very substantial assistance in that direction. The Federal Labour party at present stands in the same position as the honorable senator d’oes on that question. The honorable senator pleads and prays that, ‘whatever else his Government may do, it may not touch any land-jobber unless he owns more than £5,000 worth of land. The honorable senator had a splendid chance the other day when his Government dealt with the land tax proposals, but he was dumb. He had a chance both in the Caucus of that party and on the floor of the Senate, but in both places he was absolutely silent. He knows all about the subject, but, unfortunately, like some others, he is in a comatose condition, and’ does not care a scrap for the best interests of the workers and the returned soldiers generally.
– What do the Federal Labour party stand for? What is their exemption ?
– The Federal Labour party stands to-day for an exemption of £5,000, but the State Labour party in New South Wales, which I believe secured a majority last Saturday, stands for the imposition of a penal tax upon vacant blocks of land, of such a character that no man can hold’ on to them without losing thereby.
– Well, what is its character ?
– A straight-out flat rate upon all land values. That is the objective which this Government ought to have in view, if it intends to do anything. If it intends merely to go on as it has been doing in the past, with a make-believe policy, it will do nothing. I do not expect it to do very much. I am merely pointing out tha way in which it ought to go.
The action of the Government in foisting upon the people the existing Electoral Act, especially the part applying to the Senate, was entirely unjustifiable. A measure of that kind is best described as a majority exhaustive ballot. It is not, so far, in operation in any other country in the world. It did not work out as most people expected. I do not know whether the Government intend to keep it on the statute-book, but I wish to express my entire disapproval of the suggestion that the votes recorded at the last Senate election should be recounted, so as to give the electors an opportunity of seeing what would have happened had the proportional system of representation been applied. We could perhaps have ascertained how many members of each party would have been returned at that election under the proportional representation system, if it were not that certain things happened; but it must be remembered that in some cases deliberate efforts were made to induce the electors to vote in accordance with an arbitrary division of the State, and not for the candidates on their merits. Therefore, to count that poll under the proportional representation system would not give a true reflex of the opinions of the people. It would not be fair, in any case, to count those votes according to proportional representation.
– Why would it not be fair?
– Because the votes were not cast at that election under the impression that they would be counted on the proportional representation system. For instance, the State of New South Wales was divided into three sections.
– You are talking about what the parties did, and arguing as to what the electors did.
– The electors obeyed the instruction of the party, to a large extent.
– Of the Labour party.
– And of the Liberal party. Is any one so mentally obtuse as to imagine that the electors of New South Wales would record an overwhelming vote for the man who topped the poll on the Liberal side, and give the other candidates practically a negligible quantity of votes? Had the electors of New South Wales been1 left free from the Liberal machine, they would, no doubt, have voted very differently.
– It is good for the honorable senator to talk about machines !
– Surely the honorable senator does not imagine that of the two men elected in New South Wales to represent the National party in the Senate, one would get 200,000 votes, and the other only 5,000?
– The machine asked us to vote “ Cox, Duncan, Garling,” and we did it.
– Not quite. The Liberal party slipped a little when they got down to Garling.
– You would have had two Liberals and one Labour man returned for the Senate in every State under the proportional system.
– That might or might not have occurred, but to count those votes in the way suggested, when they were recorded as they were, would not give a fair criterion.
– Do you believe in proportional representation ?
– I do not. Ih political_ war, as in real war, apparently nearly anything is fair. Senator Pratten and others assisted in foisting upon us an Electoral Act whereby at the recent Federal elections 71,000 adults in New South Wales - and I suppose the electors of New South Wales are just as intelligent as those of any other State - failed to record a formal vote. That was done deliberately by the other side.
– Be fair. I proposed an amendment in favour of proportional representation.
– But the honorable senator’s amendment was foredoomed to failure when the other side held a caucus meeting next door.
– The honorable senator did not help us, anyhow.
– Of course I did not, because I do not believe in proportional representation, one of the main results of which has been to charge visitors 2s. per head to go into Launceston and 2s. more to come out. That represents about the acme of its achievements. Under the system foisted upon us by the so-called National Government, fully 175,000 adults throughout the Commonwealth were unable to record a formal vote. In my opinion the system was purposely designed in order that the largest possible number of informal votes should be recorded. Only the other day we witnessed the humiliating spectacle of the late Holman Government - I hope that my description of it is an accurate one - introducing a system of proportional representation, of which Senator Guthrie is an enthusiastic advocate.
– The honorable- senator never heard me advocate proportional representation.
– That shows Senator Guthrie’s good sense. Under the system of proportional representation which wa3 passed at the instance of the Holman Government, about 50,000 electors, so far as we can ascertain at present, were unable to record formal votes. They registered ^informal votes, notwithstanding that each political party was most industrious in its efforts to teach them how to avoid doing this.
– And the honorable senator calls them intelligent electors.
– They are quite as intelligent as are the other electors of Australia, although I do not say that they are more intelligent than are the electors in other countries. In my opinion, the old system, under which an elector placed a cross in a square opposite the name of the candidate for whom he desired to vote, enabled a truer indication of the electors’ wishes to be ascertained than does any other system.
– Does not the honorable senator consider the results of the election in New South Wales on Saturday a true indication of public opinion?
– I do not think that the enormous number of informal votes recorded on that occasion should be disregarded.
– Do not the results of Saturday’s election in New South Wales constitute a true indication of public opinion?
– They do so far as they go. But the results might have been better, and I am sure that they would have been very much better, had lie electors not been obliged to vote for the whole of the candidates. I believe that the exponents of proportional representation, of which Senator Pratten is one, favour the idea of an elector being required to vote for only one candidate, whilst allowing him liberty to vote for two or three candidates should he so desire.
– That is true proportional representation.
– That is alleged to be the real, true merino of proportional representation.
– The proportion of informal votes cast on Saturday is less than the proportion of informal vote3 registered in this chamber for the election of the President.
– I am surprised to hear that. I cannot see how honorable senators could make an error of that sort.
– John Stuart Mill said that proportional voting was a check upon Democracy.
– Usually he is not very far wrong, but occasionally he make3 a mistake. It is quite possible that proportional representation may he a very good thing, but to my mind it is altogether too complicated for the ordinary elector to grasp. It is all very well for persons who pay close attention to political matters, and who are accustomed to use a pen or a pencil. But we ought to remember that there are tens of thousands of estimable citizens who would rather do a half-day’s hard work than face a long string of candidates’ names. At the election in New South Wales on Saturday, in order to record a formal vote, it was necessary for an elector to vote for twenty-one candidates.
– There were fifty candidates for election to the Federal Convention.
– But the elector did not require to vote for the whole of them.
– He was obliged to vote for ten of them.
– The simpler any method of voting can be made, the easier will it be for an elector to record his honest opinion. At the New South Wales elections on Saturday, many people were obliged to write the names of twenty-one candidates upon their ballot-papers.
– To write down numbers to that extent, but not names.
– It was necessary for absent voters to write upon their ballot-papers the names of the candidates.
– But the proportion of absent voters was very small.
– There were a good many thousands of them. There were more than2,000 in some electorates. Schemes of this kind are brought forward to prevent acorrect expression of public opinion being obtained. Men who cannot read or write are just as much entitled to vote as are those who can.
– The honorable senator has been six years in this Chamber, but has not attempted to amend our Electoral Act.
– The honorable senator never knew members of the Labour party to bring forward such an abortion of an Electoral Bill as was foisted upon us during the closing days of last session. We were quite content to adhere to the old method of voting. Some members of our party predicted that the Nationalists, if elected, would tinker with the Electoral Act, and I have no doubt that they are concocting more schemes of the same kind for the future.
– I hope that the honorable senator does not include me in his statement.
– No doubt, Senator Russell will do right so far as he knows.
– I . nearly lost my deposit at the recent election.
-No. We should have a system of voting under which the number of informal votes registered would be reduced to a minimum. One would imagine that there is an immense difference of opinion amongst the electors of this country, and that the line of demarcation between them is so sharply drawn that it can be detected at any point. As a matter of fact, there is no such sharp line of demarcation. In New South Wales there is the genuine Labour party, there is the Progressive party, and the National party.
– What about Arthur Rae’s party?
– Arthur Rae is outside the Labour movement to-day.
– He is the best Labour man you ever had.
– To-day he is entirely outside the Labour movement in New South Wales.
-he is the best Labour man you ever had in that State.
– That is the honorable senator’s opinion.
– And it is the honorable senator’s opinion as well.
– It is not.
– It is.
– I am very glad that a number of these men are outside the Labour movement, because their actions were largely responsible for our defeat, and those actions were doubtless welcomed warmly by honorable senators opposite.
– Does the honorable senator repudiate the work of Arthur Rae in the early “ nineties “ ?
– I repudiate his attitude during recent years. Personally, I am very glad that he is outside the Labour movement, and that there are a few others with him.
– Arthur Rae made you.
– The honorable senator is entirely mistaken. He wanders into oblivion, and does not really know where he is. I know Arthur Rae better than does Senator Guthrie, and I appreciate his work of years gone by. But his work during recent years’ was positively injurious to us, and, consequently, we are glad that he is outside the Labour movement.
– Solidarity for ever!
– I anticipate that the Government will very carefully consider what other amendments they can embody in our Electoral Act for the purpose of further mystifying the electors in order that they may secure an additional tenure of the Treasury bench. But ultimately Nemesis will overtake them, just as defeat has overtaken the Holman Government in New South Wales. I am glad that Ministers propose to proceed With a substantial amount of work. I trust that the objectionable parts of their measures will be eliminated, and that to some extent the hopes expressed in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech will be realized.
– In the first place I desire to congratulate you, sir, upon your re-election to this Chamber, and I trust that when the time arrives the good sense of the Senate will prevail to re-establish you in the position which you now occupy. I heartily indorse the reference in the Vice-Regal utterance to the successful flight of Sir Ross Smith, Sir Keith Smith, and their gallant comrades from England to Australia, It is perfectly true that - -
They have added fresh lustre to the name of Australia, and have written an indelible page, not only in our history, but in that of the Empire and of civilization.
In my opinion they have accomplished even more than that.
– The honorable senator is forgetting to include the mechanics.
– No. I say that Sergeant Bennett and Sergeant Shiers are also entitled to our congratulations. From the stand-point of resource and daring, I regard their feat as the greatest in the world’s history. When we reflect that only yesterday these four men breakfasted in Melbourne and lunched in Adelaide, we begin to realize how much nearer their flight has brought us to the Mother Country. I think that the money expended by the Commonwealth in’ encouraging -aerial flight to this country has been well spent.
I also congratulate the Government upon the projected visit of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to Australia. I know, however, that my sentiments are not shared by the whole of the people. I gather from the press that a certain section of the community has decided to take no part in the festivities attaching to the Royal visit, and to prevent their children from participating in them. I regard their action as worse than small, because the approaching visit of the Prince of Wales will forge another link which will connect us with the Motherland. If that link be ever severed it will be a sorry day for Australia. As’ a result of the war that link binding Australia to the Old Country should be strengthened. Australia’s only protection against the outside world has been the grand old British Navy. It will remain her only protection for years to come. Despite anything we may try to do ourselves, we cannot hope to protect this great island continent without the assistance of the British Navy. I trust that the day is far distant when we shall find any support given to any proposal to cut the painter that binds us to the Old Country.
A great many people regard speeches made on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply as so much waste of time. It may be admitted that it is not constructive work, but the motion affords a safety valve for the blowing off of a little .steam, as was done by the honorable senator who preceded me. That kind of thing, however, will not save Australia, and I do not think that shorter hours of work, and an extra ls. a day, will 6ave this country. Let me tell my honorable friends opposite that there is not a labour union in Australia to-day that is not more political than industrial.
– So it ought to be.
– The unions are suffering more from their political leaders than from anything else. Like some other organizations, they have too many political leaders trying to make use of them to secure billets for themselves. What Australia wants to-day is a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay, and a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. The sooner that is generally recognised the better.
I do not intend to deal exhaustively with the different Pools. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Millen) replied so effectively to the criticism of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Gardiner) that it is not necessary that I should repeat what he said. I will say, however, that were it nob for the establishment of the Wheat and Wool Pools particularly, Australia would have been in a very sorry plight indeed. Those Pools were established at an opportune time. Though there were many blunders connected with the management of the Wheat Pool, but for its establishment the last state of our wheat farmers would have been worse than the first.
– No one objects to the Pools; the objection is to their mismanagement.
– It is easy to be wise after the event. When, we do what we think best’ at the time, it is of no use later to complain that if we had done something else better results would have been obtained. Honorable senators know that but for the damage to the stacks of wheat caused by the mouse plague, we should not have heard anything against the Wheat Pool. As a result of our experience of the mouse plague, everything has to be made mouse proof this year. It is a common mistake in Australia to do things too late.
– Where have the mice gone?
– I will answer the honorable senator if he can tell me where they came from. I do not know where they came from, but honorable senators will remember that, when the plague was at its height, I said that, in a few months’ time, all the mice would be gone. I was not believed, but was told that I was talking nonsense, but they were all gone within the time I mentioned. I did not speak without knowledge, as I had seen these plagues before. I repeat that the damage caused by the mouse plague was the cause of the greatest trouble in connexion with the Wheat Pool. The quantity of damaged wheat gave some persons who were not as honest as they might be, an opportunity to traffic in it. It is all very well to criticise the management of the Pools now, but the farming community in Australia have reason to be extremely thankful to the Government for the establishment of the Wheat Pool which enabled them to secure a reasonable price for their wheat, instead of nothing at all for it.
– It was started by the Labour party.
– Whoever started it, it was a very good thing.
In my opinion, the Wool Pool has also been of very great benefit to Australia. On the face of it, the Government made one of the finest deals on behalf of the wool-growers of Australia that could be made when they secured an agreement under which the Imperial Government paid a flat rate of 15 £d. per lb. for our surplus wool, with the condition that any profit made upon its resale was to be divided equally with the wool-growers. If any honorable senator will say that that was not a fair and square deal’, I should like him to tell me what he considers such a deal. At a time when we could not dispose of our wool in Australia or get it away, our wool-growers, as a result of the establishment of the Wool Pool, secured a better price than they ever obtained before, and the Imperial Government further agreed that if they made any profit from its resale they would divide it with the growers. I have been in the business practically all” my life, and I can remember that when we first obtained ls. per lb.- for wool we took a half-holiday, and had a real jollification. We said, “Wool is ls. per lb., and everyone’s fortune is made.” Under the agreement with the Imperial Government, our wool-growers received a flat rate of 15£d. per lb., and a promise that profits on its resale would be divided with them.
There seems, however, to be a little slip “in connexion with the management of the Wool Pool latterly, and perhaps I should apologize to the Senate for notbeing able to explain it. I understand that every member of this Parliament has been circularized by the pastoralists of Australia with respect to the working of the wool tops agreement. This is a- matter that should be considered from all sides. If a private individual can obtain some of the surplus wool of Australia, and is justified in manufacturing it into wool tops and doing the best he can with it, there is much to be said for vShe Government doing the same thing. But the Imperial Government has taken the wool of Australia at a fixed rate - that is to say, the whole of the wool not required for local consumption - and it is questionable whether it is a fair thing for the Government to take some of the wool which belongs to the Imperial Government, manufacture it into wool tops, and, selling the wool tops, put the proceeds into the Treasury.
– The honorable senator does not object to the wool tops machinery being kept going.
– No; I do not, but if the wool tops machinery is kept going the profits from the sale of the wool tops should go into the Wool Pool.
– That is another matter. The honorable senator does not agree that the machines should be kept idle for two years ?
– No, I do not. My contention is that those who purchased the whole of Australia’s wool at a certain price should have some say as to the distribution of the profit from the manufacture of wool tops from the wool.
– The Imperial Government purchased the exportable surplus, and not the whole of Australia’s wooL
– That is so. The point I wish to make is that all the wool tops manufactured in Australia are notmade into cloth in Australia.
– Therefore they are not necessary to meet Australia’s requirements, and any profit derived from them should go into the Wool Pool or be divided amongst the wool -growers.
– We must have wool tops before we can have woollen cloth.
– We all know that, but that is not the question. The honorable senator misses the point. I agree that wool required in Australia should be manufactured intowool tops if the wool tops manufactured are made into cloth in Australia.If that were done no one couldraise a word of complaint on behalf of the wool-growers.
– Then what is wrong?
– It cannot be said that wool manufactured into wool tops for export is necessary to meet the requirements of Australia. It should be regarded as surplus wool, and any profits from its manufacture should be shared between the wool-growers and the Imperial Government. If the wool tops are sold by the Commonwealth Government the profits should be put into the Wool Pool and divided amongst the woolgrowers. That is all I have to say in connexion with that matter.
We are told that we must go in for increased production. I fully realize that the only solution of the problem of the high cost of living, not only in Australia, but throughout the world, is summed up in the one word, “production.”
– The honorable senator means more work.
– Yes, longer hours and more work. What do. we know about production? What has Australia ever done to produce anything?
– The honorable senator dissents, but will he tell me that putting 100,000 sheepon to 1,000,000 acres of land is production?
– If it is, it is in the very narrowest sense of the word. Will any one tell me that using three or fourteen horses with three three-furrow ploughs, and a couple of harrows, and scratching a lot of wheat into the land, is production? That is production only in the narrowest sense of the word. We have a demand made to-day that our farmers should put an increased area of land under wheat. It is not the number of acressown, but the better working of the land that is going to give us more production.. If we worked the land better we should produce a great deal more in Australia. I do not know whether it is my duty or the duty of the press to teach this lesson to the people of Australia. I have done my best in the matter for the past twentyfive years, but as Senator Grant said with respect to the Electoral Act, when any new theory is advanced it seems necessary to drive it into people’s heads.
– The honorable senator does not say that fallowing is a new theory.
– There are different varieties of cereals, and some kinds of wheat will yield 4 or 5 bushels more in one locality than in another. The most profitable varieties to sow were not the discoveries af agricultural bureaux, scientists, or professors, but of private individuals. The two men whose names stand out prominently as producers of valuable varieties of wheat are Mr. Farrar, of New South Wales, and Mr. Marshall, of South Australia. I do not know whose duty it is, but it is the duty of some one, to make the rising generation of Australia realize that this is a dry country, and that water conservation should be the first consideration. I am pleased that reference is made in ‘ the Governor-General’s Speech to the River Murray Waters proposal ; but we want to do more. As I have already said, a great deal of persuasion is required to make people realize the need for water conservation in this country, and better systems of production. I remember quite distinctly, when the wheat-growing industry was at a very low .ebb in South’ Australia, how difficult it was to induce the farmers to adopt more effective methods. Wheat-growing then was a losing game.
– And still is.
– We should make it more profitable. At one time, on Yorke Peninsula,’ now one of the greatest wheat-producing centres in Australia, farmers were failing almost daily ; but during all this trouble there was one man, Mr. John Cudmore, who was making wheat growing pay. His neighbours could see what he was doing, but did they follow his example? Not one. He endeavoured to persuade them that unless they used fertilizers ‘ they would never be able to grow wheat profitably. They declared that they could not afford to use fertilizers, and he said that if they did not use artificial manures they could not afford to grow wheat at all.
There is quite a mistaken idea concerning the application of fertilizers to wheatgrowing land. It is generally believed that our professors of agriculture first recommended the system. As a matter of fact, this is not so. Indeed, in South Australia, the then professor of agricul ture threw cold water on the scheme. Credit for the introduction of the system must be given to Mr. John Cudmore, who persuaded two Minlaton farmers to apply superphosphates to their wheat lands. He said that if it did not grow as much wheat as the other portions of their farm he would pay the cultivation expenses; but if it grew more wheat, then he would want half the profit. The result was, the best land on the farm produced 4 bushels, and that, treated under Mr. Cudmore’s system, yielded 24 bushels. To say that these ‘farmers were converted to that principle is to put it very mildly. Subsequently, at a conference of the agricultural bureaux, the professor of agriculture declared against the system; but when they pointed out to him what had been accomplished, he admitted he had no argument against it if the facts were as stated. The dissemination of this information, by means of the agricultural bureaux, led to the universal adoption of the practice in regard to wheat-producing; land ; but the point I am making is thats the value of this practice had, practically, to be forced down people’s throats. I am afraid that our experience will be much the same with respect to many other necessary agricultural reforms, and particularly in the matter of water conservation, in your own State, Mr. President, during the present drought, a pastoralist is irrigating 100 acres of lucerne along one of the rivers and keeping 8,000 sheep alive upon it. It must be our duty to persuade our people to take advantage of their opportunities. If one man can do what I have described on one of the rivers in Queensland, hundreds of others can do likewise, not only there, but in other portions of the Commonwealth.
– But rivers are few in Australia. What would you do in a riverless country?
– The interjection merely demonstrates how difficult it is to convince people upon these important points. Here is a leader of thought, one of the principal representatives from Western Australia, raising an objection that in a riverless country what I have been speaking of could not be accomplished. He knows,,’ as does everybody else, that enough water falls in Australia for all our requirements if only adequate means are taken to conserve it. At present nearly all this water flows to the sea and is lost.
– The Darling at present is only a chain of billabongs.
– I know that perfectly well; but I point out that if all the water that has flowed down the Darling into the sea had been conserved, the Darling to-day would be full of water from end to end. This is what we want to realize, and yet we have honorable senators here sneering at it.
– How many rivers are there between Adelaide and Perth?
– None. . But i does the honorable senator forget that the Golden Mile, in his own State, was uninhabitable until Western Australia had a Premier courageous enough to take .the water 500 miles from the sea coast?
– But not for irrigation purposes.
– The interjector’s persistence only confirms me in the view that it is almost a hopeless task to make people realize their responsibilities. I have no doubt that the honorable senator, when travelling to and from Adelaide by rail, has often expressed admiration for the wonderful fertility of the Bacchus Marsh country. Does he know what gives that country its great value ?
– Yes; there is a river close by-
– The conservation of the water makes the Bacchus Marsh country so valuable, and I say unhesitatingly that throughout Australia there are hundreds of places that could be converted into equally fine districts, Does Senator Grant, who talks of the Darling as being merely a chain of water holes, know that there is a magnificent river, the waters of which are untapped either for domestic or irrigation purposes ?
– I know there are several magnificent rivers in New South Wales, including the Macleay, the Clarence, the Tweed, and the Hunter.
– The honorable senator has omitted to mention the Snowy River, which, at a nominal expenditure, compared with the immense benefit it would confer upon the community, could be diverted into the Murray, and keep it flowing all the year round.
– Evidently you want to steal the river from Victoria.
– If ever Australia is going to be great, we must get rid pf these little parochial jealousies, and realize that Australia is one. country. If in New South Wales there is a river going to waste, New South Wales must not prevent its utilization, if this is necessary to confer any benefit upon the rest of Australia.
I do not know if honorable senators from Queensland read with equanimity the paragraph in the press to-day that Victoria is going in for a system of irrigation in connexion with sugar beet culture, but it is a step in the right direction.
– I welcome it, and I hope they will do the same in South Australia.
– I understand that the application of water to beet is as beneficial as is green grass to the growth of cattle or sheep. It has been said that the man who makes two blades of grass grow where ;one grew before is a benefactor of his race. What shall we say of a man who makes 5- bushels of wheat grow where only one grew, or land carry eighty sheep to the acre which previously carried only one ?
– Eighty sheep to the acre?
– Yes, eighty, and 100 if the honorable senator cares.
Let me illustrate another point, that should be of particular interest to the honorable senator representing Tasmania, although it may be futile for me to go on quoting examples. King Island, which is no great distance from the State the honorable senator represents, was, until a few years ago, practically a barren waste, and probably would be to this day had it not been for the fact that a vessel was wrecked/ on its shores. Since that time, it has been one of the best producing countries in the southern hemisphere, and is at present carrying six sheep to the acre for the greater part of the year. What has Senator Earle done in the direction of ascertaining what is being done on King Island* Has any one heard of him taking active steps in the direction of cultivating the Mellilotus on the mainland of Tasmania ? I have heard pastoralists speaking of buying up the island of Tasmania, and turning it into a sheep run. Tasmania is only a small island, but surely it is of sufficient importance to experiment in the growth of the Mellilotus; and if that were done, I believe it would be capable of carrying more stock than at present. There must be large areas in Tasmania where the Mellilotus would grow, particularly as it flourishes on King Island; but we have never heard of any one in Tasmania trying it. Senator Earle was not present when I informed honorable senators that 8,000 sheep have been kept on 100 acres of irrigated lucerne. Is any one prepared to say that lucerne’ is the last word in fodder production in Australia? I do not think it is. I believe there are other fodders that will show even better results. I may inform honorable senators that one paddock of dry cockspur fattened 1,000” wethers better than they could have been fattened on lucerne; but that question need not be further considered, because I believe the sheep have now eaten it all out. Experiments have been made in some parts of Wales, in the cultivation of Sudan grass, and a Mr. Dowle, a grower, obtained some excellent hay, which he said was equal to oaten hay. One farmer in New South Wales grew 14 acres on one watering, and some of the crop reached a height of 8 feet. This grower said he could have kept 120 sheep to the acre on this wonderful grass.
– All the year round?
– He might have done so if he had a few stacks in reserve.
– I again appeal to these honorable senators who are so pessimistic, to have a little sense of discretion, arid take heed of what others are doing, instead of scoffing. Do they realize that Sudan grass grows to a height of 8 feet, and cuts 44 tons to the acre? Let us go further, and consider other fodders. Here is an extract from an article in the Producers Review of February, entitled “ Kudzu “ -
While Kudzu is by no means a new ‘ plant, it was only a year or two ago that any extensive experiments were made with it, and the number of farms on which it was grown was insignificant. In fact, it appears not to have been studiously cultivated anywhere until a Florida man made the accidental discovery that his live stock seemed to prefer it to any other kind of forage plant, and that they waxed exceedingly fat upon it. As this was at a time when the high cost of feed forced many farmers to reduce the allowance of their animals, he hastened to plant a number of acres of Kudzu, with the most satisfactory results. It was not only as a feed for his farm animals that he discovered virtue in the plant, however. He found that, by reason of it9 power to extract nitrogen from the air through the medium of the bacteria on its roots, and adding this essential element to the soil, it quickly built up poor and worn-out land, making it fertile and productive.
That applies to the whole Commonwealth, and to South Australia particularly, as land in that State which was looked upon as worthless for wheatgrowing before the introduction of drills and fertilizers, and which was sold for 15s. per acre, eventually realized £15 per acre.
– £15 per acre for wheat-growing land?
– Yes, wheat or barley.
– I would like to see a farmer make it pay at that.
– Yes, they have paid as much as £12 per acre, and have wiped off the purchase price in the first year. I have merely quoted a portion of the article to show that there are other plants with fattening properties equal to, if not better than, lucerne.
– How can lucerne be grown on a rainfall of 12 inches?
– If lucerne cannot be grown, why not try “Kudzu,” or something else? My object in bringing the matter forward is to persuade honorable senators to realize that, as Australia is a drought-stricken country, and that as droughts and strikes are the curse of this country, it is their duty to interest themselves in such questions, and thus endeavour to improve the conditions throughout the whole Commonwealth. Here is another, extract at which honorable senators may scoff. This comes from South Australia -
At a meeting of the Advisory Board of Agriculture on Friday interesting information with regard to experiments in the electrification of wheat carried out by the Laura branch was given. From 5 grains electrically treated and sown 2 inches apart, thirty-five stools per plant were obtained, each head yielding 40 grains. Five other grains were sown in a similar manner, which had not been so treated, and only twenty-five stools per plant resulted, with 30 grains per head. The branch1 intends to experiment on a much wider scale this year.
That is the report of a small experiment carried out by a farmer in South Australia.
– We have enough sunshine to do that; what we need is moisture.
– I know it is moisture we need, and honorable senators have shown by their interjections that in many parts of Australia sufficient moisture is not available. If we could stimulate the growth of cereal crops by the application of electricity, why should hot a move be made in that direction?
– How is the grain electrified ?
– I do not know how it is done. It may be a trade secret, but I read the whole report. The point I desire to make is that we have not reached our limit of production, and have not even tried to produce to our fullest capacity or anything approaching it. When I stated that Australia should produce more, my remarks were scoffed at. In 1914 Australia lost 20,000,000 sheep through drought, and we have been suffering in consequence ever since. In New South ‘Wales alone no less than 7,000,000 sheep were lost last year, and that number represents at least £7,000,000. In the same State, where they do not grow sufficient wheat for home consumption, an inch of moisture on the soil at a critical period would have resulted in a return of 20 bushels to the acre instead of a total failure. ‘
– That cannot be produced.
– It can be done, and we must say that it shall be done, by irrigation. Years ago, it was said that water could not be obtained at certain levels on Yorke Peninsula in South Australia, and Mr. Tom Price, who was then Premier, said it had to be done, and it was done. I know the representatives of the press do not take much notice of what honorable senators say, but my remarks will be recorded in Hansard, by those men who produce our speeches in better form than we deliver them.
– That is a very true remark.
– I have kept very close to the truth, and I congratulate the Hansard staff on their work. But who reads Hansard?
– All sensible people.
Senator- SHANNON.- The only person I have discovered who perused Bansard was practically insane.
– I know that our sins as recorded in Hansard are read by the people.
– If Senator Shannon makes a mistake, he will soon see that some one will notice it.
– I am prepared to say anything in reason to make Australia realize that this is a dry country.
– Say something out of reason.
– Can the honorable senator- give me an indication? I have kept as close to the truth as I can, and I do not think I have said anything that may be regarded as extravagant. I have not stated facts which have not come within my personal experience in my short career in Australia. I would do anything to make the people of this continent realize the necessity for a complete system of water conservation. “Until we conserve the whole of the water of Australia this can never 6e a great nation, because drought will always get us down.
Re-afforestation is another question on which we must concentrate our attention. Australia is gradually, but surely, being denuded of the whole of its valuable timbers, and very little provision is being made to replace them. In some of the States, something is being done, but only as regards one kind of timber. Australia must go in for a consistent policy of afforestation, or the day is not far distant when we shall look in vain for timber for our own requirements. (There are vast areas in the Commonwealth that can be devoted to that purpose.
I am sorry that no reference is made in :the Governor-General’s Speech to the question of the development of the Northern Territory. Some honorable senators are inclined to think that, if one says anything at all about the Territory, he is speaking only for South Australia. At this moment, South Australiahas no more to do with the Territory than has any other part of the Commonwealth. When the Commonwealth Parliament took it over, it became Commonwealth property.
– -South Australia sold a pup to the Federal Parliament.
– Such an interjection is really lamentable when, as a matter of fact, South Australia handed over to the Commonwealth what is practically a continent - an area nearly as large as that which the honorable senator represents.
– Mostly desert.
– What would the honorable senator say if I called Queensland mostly desert? He would deny it, and rightly, because Queensland is one of the richest States in the Commonwealth. There is more good land in it than in all the other States put together, with the exception of the Northern Territory.
– And see how we spoon-feed it.
– Somebody wrote to the press the other day, out of the fullness of his gross ignorance, to the effect that sugar wasbeing produced on the very rich lands of Queensland. If he understood anything about the subject, hewould know that the richest lands there do not grow sugar. Some of the land which produces sugar in great quantities was obtained from the State at 2s. 6d. per acre. Between Mulgrave and the Babinda Valley, where the Government mill, which cost nearly £500,000 - and which, I suppose, is the greatest sugar mill in Australia - is situated, within a stone’s throw of that mill land could have been bought, only a few years ago, for 2s. 6d. an acre, and that is not what would be called rich land. I do not know whether Senator Crawford has been through the Northern Territory . I have not, but, when he speaks of the land there being “mostly desert,” he is either speaking jocularly or fromthe fullness of his ignorance. We are given to understand that there are large tracts of most valuable country there, including large mineral belts, which, if they only had proper communication, would probably pay the whole of the national debt of Australia. The Federal Parliament has been criminally negligent so far as the Northern Territory is concerned.
– That is very hot
– I cannot make it too hot. This Parliament accepted the responsibility of the Territory for goodor bad, and what has it done? Governments come and go, and nothing is done, and there is no line in this Speech to indicatea policy of development.
– South Australia did very well.
– If I had had my way, the Territory would never have been handed over to the Commonwealth.
– Do you think South Australia would take it back?
– I would vote to-morrow to take it back.
– Do you think the South Australian Government would?
– I am speaking as a senator for South Australia, and not for the South Australian Government.
– Let the South Australian Government come along, and we will give them their white elephant back again.
– What has the honorable senator done to make it any other colour. All this lends double force to my assertion that the Commonwealth Parliament has been criminally negligent so far as the Northern Territory is concerned. When it was taken over, the first thing that should have been done was to connect it north and south by a direct line of railway from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek. If this line had been constructed, we should have heard nothing about this “white elephant,” because in a very few years the Northern Territory would have so developed, and its mineral resources would have been so opened up, that the Commonwealth Parliament would not have needed to look anywhere else for money to carry on the work of Australia. Senator de Largiehas been here ever since the Territory was taken over, and has not lifted a finger to help make it any different. To this talk about a “white elephant” I say “Bah !” It is double-distilled trash, and almost makes my blood boil. If the Northern Territory is to be of any use to Australia, the sooner we find the money to connect it up with a railway line running north and south the better.
– Will South Australia guarantee the Commonwealth against loss?
– What has South Australia to do with it, any more than any other State? These childish interjections almost drive one silly. I said that as soon as one opened one’s mouth about the Northern Territory, honorable senators thought one was speaking for South Australia.
– You are, if you are speaking about the north-south line.
– What does the honorable senator, who represents the Mother State, suggest? What has he done since he has been here to help to lift the Northern Territory out of the slough of despond ?
– It should be connected up with Queensland.
– That will not help the Territory. The lands of Queensland to-day are cheaper than they were four years ago. The people are being driven out of Queensland. If people were being attracted there, the land would be getting dearer instead of cheaper.
– The population of Queensland is increasing. They have a good land tax there.
– That is not the way to open up the ‘country. Senator Pratten suggests a pettifogging ‘ railway into Queensland, which, like chips in porridge, would do neither harm nor good. A line of railway running north and south would bisect this continent.
– It would run through a desert.
– I do not care what it would run through. The honorable senator and others prate here about saving Australia by going in for militarism, and the manufacture of munitions, and educating the people to be soldiers, and they leave the line between the Northern Territory and the south unbuilt. If they were honest in their convictions, the first thing they would advocate would be the connecting of the north and south of Australia by a line of railway.
– Prom Adelaide.
– It would not be from Adelaide. It would be from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek, the two nearest points.
– With Adelaide as the terminus. _
– The honorable senator might as well say that Rockhampton would be the terminus. If Pine Creek and Oodnadatta were connected by rail, a traveller could step on to the train at Darwin and gp through to Longreach in Queensland. Honorable senators who talk in the way that Senator Pratten is talking have not studied the question as they should have studied it. May I re peat, with more vehemence than ever, that the members of this Parliament are criminally negligent in their duty towards the Northern Territory, which has been handed over to them to develop ?
– The honorable senator is applying the term “ criminally negligent” to the proceedings of this Chamber. Is he in order in doing so ?
– I do not think that the honorable senator meant the expression to be taken in its literal sense. If any honorable’ senator regards it as offensive, I must ask the honorable senator to withdraw it, but my opinion was that he used it as a euphemism. .
– I object to the application of the words “ criminally negligent “ to me as a member of this Chamber.
– Then I ask the honorable senator to withdraw the expression.
– I withdraw it. I used it merely in a political sense, and did not apply it to the honorable -senator personally. I feel that only extraordinarily strong expressions will make this Parliament realize its duty towards the obligations which it has undertaken towards the northern portions of Australia.
– Will the honorable senator support the erection of the Federal Capital if we support the northsouth line?
– Is not the honorable senator trying now to put a “ halfnelson “ on me? I am not sure that an offer of that description on the floor of the Senate is not more or less criminal, or savouring at least of a conspiracy. I am not here to drive a bargain. In fact, no bargain is required. The fact remains that the Commonwealth has accepted the responsibility of the Northern Territory, and we cannot rid ourselves of it.
– And the next responsibility of the Commonwealth is the building of the Federal Capital.
– That is another question which I am not attempting to argue Just now. The honorable senator may argue it if he chooses to do so. But there is no analogy whatever between the two things. I am merely contending that the Commonwealth has not done its duty to the Northern Territory, for which it has accepted full responsibility. I am en- deavouring to show that the north-south line would be a truly national undertaking.
– The Commonwealth agreed to construct that line.
– Exactly,but I am not putting forward even that proposition now. I merely want honorable senators to realize what their indebtedness is.
– Why not construct a line through the north-west from Geraldton ? That would be doing something sensible.
– If I talked as foolishly as does the honorable senator I would have resumed my seat half an hour ago. I can see that there is only one way of getting into his head the idea which I am stressing, and that is by means of an auger or a chisel. If this Parliament will not realize its obligations to develop the resources of the Northern Territory, and to connect the railways of Australia with one line through the continent, I am extremely sorry. However, I have done my best, and I cannot do more.
These were the only subjects upon which I desired to speak. I wished to emphasize that drought is the bugbear of Australia, that water conservation is our prime necessity, that the obligations of this Parliament to the Northern Territory are immense, and that those obligations can be discharged only by connecting our existing railways with a transcontinental line from north to south.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Motion (by Senator Millen) agreed to -
That the Address-in-Reply be presented to His Excellency the Governor-General by the President, and suchsenators asmay desire to accompany him.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed - That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- To-day I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories a question in regard to the adminstration of Papua’. The replies given were somewhat lengthy, and I was under the impression that the Royal Commission appointed by the Government was intended to inquire into the administration of that
Possession. Evidently I have been misinformed on the subject. It is quite clear, however, that there are two sections of opinion in Papua at the present time. If the Government do not intend to make further inquiries, I hope they will expedite the bringing before Parliament of the measure promised in His Excellency’s Speech for the parliamentary representation of these Territories, so that the people living in them may be able to make their grievances’ known here.
– Some time ago I asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister if it were correct that the wealth census cards had been destroyed. I wish to know whether the honorable gentleman now has an answer to that question, and can tell me, if the cards have been destroyed, why they were destroyed ?
– Since I drew attention to the matter in this Chamber the Minister representing the Postmaster-General read a reply from the Chief Electrical Engineer admitting the almost horrible condition of the telephone service in Sydney, and stating that it was due to the fact that sufficient money had not been available to keep the service reasonably efficient. I should like to know now whether, in view of that report, the Treasurer has seen fit to advance money to relieve this admittedly bad condition of affairs?
– I shall direct the Postmaster- General’s attention to the matter mentioned by Senator Pratten, and will furnish later theofficialreply to his question.
– The answer to the question of Senator Grant with which I am furnished is as follows : -
The statement is correct. The information contained in the wealth census cards has been condensed and made available in permanent form in the wealth census report, and it is, therefore, unnecessary to retain the cards. In connexion with all census returns, the cards are destroyed after the information has been extracted, as they occupy an immense amount of space, and the cost of storage would be prohibitive.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.13 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 March 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1920/19200324_senate_8_91/>.